Roles have changed in TN this election
While most of India faced the “Modi wave”, Tamil Nadu stuck to its anti-Modi core. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) failed to secure even a single seat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The results of the 2019 Lok Sabha was a huge victory for M K Stalin, president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) as the party emerged victorious by securing 37 out of the 38* seats--excluding Vellore. Its rival, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) secured just one seat.
Roles are never permanent
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, AIADMK swept through the state by securing 37 seats, the remaining two were secured by its own allies as well. This left the DMK completely empty-handed. AIADMK was stronger than ever after this victory combined with another victory in the 2016 Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly elections. How did it lose its stronghold this time?
Since 2016, the state has lost two of its most prominent leaders--former Chief Ministers, M Karunanidhi, and J Jayalalitha. This loss paved the way for a huge void that the Dravidian parties faced. It gave hope for lesser prominent parties that they too stood a chance. Kamal Hassan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) and Seeman’s Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) chose to contest independently without depending on a Dravidian party for an ally.
For instance, the year-old MNM secured third place in 13 Lok Sabha constituencies despite failing to win a single parliamentary seat. MNM and NTK secured close to four percent of vote shares. While this may not be the beginning of the end for Dravidian parties, it definitely shows that people are slowly looking for a change.
Stalin’s unflinching stand with Rahul has helped Congress’ position in the centre. The DMK’s alliance with the Tamil Nadu Congress (TNC) helped the latter immensely. During campaigns, TNC and DMK relied hugely on its people’s dislike for BJP with issues like Rafale and soaring unemployment. In 2009, it won eight of 15 seats in alliance with DMK. In 2014, TNC stood alone and faced a wipe-out. TNC won eight of the nine seats it contested in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from the state. This was one of the party’s best performances in TN over the last decade.
Source: Facebook/ Mehboob Basha
Both the Dravidian parties had their fair share of problems after the demise of their leaders. While AIADMK faced issues like the dismissal of 18 MLAs, DMK struggled with family feuds. But the key to DMK’s win lies in its succession plan. With key elements like “Let us save Tamil dignity” as the campaign theme, Stalin’s strategies helped DMK win this election.
There was an anti-Modi wave in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Punjab. In Tamil Nadu particularly, the state slammed its doors on the BJP and the party lost the one seat it secured in 2014. Despite sweeping the entire nation, the party’s inability to enter Tamil Nadu is because it has not understood the nature of Dravidian politics.
AIADMK retains power in the state...for now
Post Jayalalitha’s demise, AIADMK has faced a series of downs that have led to its decline. It lost its reputation due to repeated warring factions, issues such as Jallikattu and NEET, and failing to be proactive during the Sterilite protests or the Gaja cyclone.
While M K Stalin was busy shaking hands with Congress President, Rahul Gandhi for a place in the centre, it undermined the AIADMK’s game plan for the state. At the moment, there is no major threat to the government as the AIADMK won marginally in the by-elections. The party secured just enough votes--nine of the 22 assembly seats it needed to retain its position. It can now complete its five-year term.
Tamil Nadu’s future is up to its people. With Congress having failed at the centre, will DMK be able to repeat this victory in the 2021 assembly elections? Providing an alternative to Dravidian politics is Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth. While Rajnikanth chose to sit out this election, MNM already has a head-start. The two have distinct views and plans for their parties. Will it prove to be the alternative for which people may vote?