In Tamil Nadu, where two Dravidian heavyweights, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) locked horns on polling day, 6 April, the mandate was cast against the third player in the ring – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), exit polls indicate.
This, despite the AIADMK trying its best to project itself as a party which is ideologically different from its political ally, the BJP. In March this year, the party had categorically communicated to the electorate that the alliance with the BJP is “only for the elections”. To The Quint, the AIADMK spokesperson RM Babu Murugavel had said, “We are ideologically different from the BJP. We believe that there can be one alliance in the Centre and another in the state. State’s matters are within our purview alone”.
The AIADMK, despite the support it had extended to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Parliament, had walked back on the issue at the state level. During the assembly election campaign, they promised voters that the controversial act would not be implemented in Tamil Nadu.
According to ABP-Times Now CVoter exit poll, the DMK-Congress alliance is set to win 160 to 172 seats in the state. The AIADMK-BJP tally, according to the poll, is pegged at 58 to 70 seats. The Chanakya exit poll has predicted 175 to 186 seats for DMK and 57 to 68 seats for AIADMK.
State’s Interest Over Centre’s
Talking to The Quint, DMK spokesperson, Saravanan Annadurai said, “We convinced people that the BJP and AIADMK are one and the same. It has helped us in AIADMK bastions where people have voted against the BJP, thereby supporting the DMK”.
From National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) to CAA, the AIADMK had toed the BJP line against the interests of Tamil Nadu, is the line that the DMK had maintained during the election campaign.
This strategy of treating state interests as separate from the Centre’s interests, has particularly helped the DMK in western Tamil Nadu, the polls suggest.
A look at the ABP-Times Now Cvoter exit polls suggest that the DMK-Congress alliance is expected to do well in the Kongu region or western Tamil Nadu, a traditional AIADMK stronghold. In the region, the exit poll predicts an 8.2 percent vote swing in favour of DMK.
“In Kongu region, DMK campaigned massively against the BJP. All senior leaders visited the region,” a DMK leader said. The party’s alliance with the Congress, Communist parties and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), too helped. “The DMK front was considered a secular front this election. This message was made loud and clear,” a party leader said.
Contesting in Higher Numbers
During the run-up to the elections, the DMK leadership had drawn much flak for forcing its alliance partners to contest in fewer seats. This strategy, however, helped the party, the polls suggest. “In Kongu region, since the time of K Karunanidhi, the DMK candidates had not contested in many seats. The region was always left for alliance partners. But this year, the leadership decided otherwise and it helped the party,” Amudan Ramalingam, a political analyst and film maker, said.
The DMK has contested 173 out of the 234 Assembly seats in the state.
The AIADMK camp, however, said that the exit polls have not dampened the party’s spirits. “The DMK was predicting a sweep in the state. The polls do not suggest that and we are optimistic,” a senior AIADMK leader said.
Tally Below 200 Seats?
No exit poll has predicted a massive sweep for DMK-Congress alliance, even as the party was expecting a repeat of 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
In 2019, the state had voted against the AIADMK in the Lok Sabha, because of its alliance with the BJP. The DMK alliance had ended up winning 38 out of 39 seats. In 2021 Assembly elections, the DMK alliance was expecting to win over 200 seats.
Experts, however, said that the DMK’s projections are promising. “The state votes for Lok Sabha and Assembly elections differently. In Assembly elections, the regional political equations play a role. Considering this, the DMK alliance’s numbers in exit polls seem promising,” said Ramalingam. According to Ramalingam, this Assembly election, Tamil people have considered national political equations while voting.
“We are still hopeful that we will sweep the polls like we did in 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” DMK’s Annadurai remained optimistic.
Puducherry Bucks the TN Trend
In the neighbouring Union Territory Puducherry, however, the DMK is not expected to perform well, given the exit poll projections.
According to Republic-CNX exit poll, BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) may get around16 to 20 seats and Congress-led Secular Democratic Alliance (SDA) may get 11 to 13seats. DMK was part of SDA. The ABP-C Voter exit poll has projected NDA winning19 to 23 seats and SDA winning six to 10 seats in the UT.
“After Congress-DMK won the last election in 2016, the BJP had made Lt Governor Kiran Bedi run the UT without letting the elected government perform its duties. The spat between the Lt Governor and the incumbent government killed the Congress’ chance of re-election,” said a Congress leader, who did not want to be identified, to The Quint.
In February this year, the Congress government had lost a vote of confidence in the house. The UT is now presently under President’s rule. Tamilisai Soudararajan is the current Lt Governor.
“In Puducherry, anti-BJP sentiment has not worked because the Congress remained week throughout its government last term. In the UT it is anti-incumbency which has really played a role,” a senior journalist said.
The Congress had not fielded former Chief Minister, V Narayanasamy this election.
Poll results for both TN and Puducherry will be out on 2 May.