Lack of cohesion, anti-Modi wave sunk BJP in TN

Kanyakumari: Workers place a huge portrait of Prime Minister Narendra Modi along a road ahead of his rally, in Kanyakumari, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Consistency in raising issues concerning the state, stitching together a formidable alliance of like-minded parties and taking Narendra Modi head-on like never before helped the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-Congress combine sweep the Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu, winning 37 of the 38 seats.

Unlike in other parts of India, DMK president M K Stalin openly challenging Modi worked for the alliance — the ruling combine could secure only one seat in Theni, where deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam’s son O P Raveendranath won.

That the Opposition alliance convinced the electorate that Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were indeed against the people of Tamil Nadu was amply clear in the results with many of its candidates winning by record margins ranging from three to five lakh votes.

While Opposition parties, especially the DMK, painted Modi and BJP as “anti-Tamil Nadu” by raking up issues like NEET, Cauvery river water sharing, extraction of methane in the Cauvery delta region and eight-way lane between Chennai and Salem, the ruling alliance remained a mute spectator letting the other side emerge victorious without much difficulty.

BJP candidates in all five seats lost very badly with even its lone Union minister from the state Pon Radhakrishnan ceding his seat to Congress by a wide margin of over two lakh votes. The vote transfer between the alliance partners was quite poor, the election data shows. That veterans leaders like M Thambidurai bit the dust by a margin of four lakh votes only shows how strong the anti-incumbency was.

The victory margins were wide across the state and the icing on the cake was crumbling of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (AIADMK) fort in Western Tamil Nadu. DMK emerging victorious in seats like Pollachi, which is an AIADMK bastion, clearly indicates that the Opposition campaign worked wonders for them. And it looks like the AIADMK focussed all its energy on winning the bypolls to save its own government rather than winning seats for the BJP and alliance partners in the general elections.

The ruling alliance was defensive most times, failing to explain why people should vote for the BJP and its alliance partners. Their projecting Modi as a “strong leader” did not cut much ice with the electorate as they can’t be swayed by nationalism.

On the other hand, the Modi-centric campaign by Stalin seems to have worked wonders for the DMK combine. Except for the AIADMK, none of the other political parties of the ruling alliance including BJP, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) won any seats. In fact, many of the alliance partners even lost their deposits in their constituencies.

In a state that takes pride in bucking the national trend and protecting its individuality, Stalin took a leaf out of the late J Jayalalithaa’s playbook by converting it into a Modi versus Tamil Nadu fight. Jayalalithaa had won 37 seats in 2014 elections as she converted the battle into Modi versus the Lady contest.

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