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DMK Sweeps Tamil Nadu Civic Polls: What the Results Mean for Stalin, AIADMK, BJP

The victory of the local urban body elections is being seen as a report card on DMK Stalin's nine-month performance.

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Tamil Nadu’s ruling party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is heading towards a landslide victory in the urban local body elections. The election, which took place on 19 February, was held for over 12,500 wards across 21 corporations, 138 municipalities and 489 town panchayats.

The results of these local body polls, which were held after a decade, is being seen as a report card on Chief Minister MK Stalin's nine-month performance.

While for the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), that was ousted from power in the State in May last year after a 10-year reign, this was their one shot to show strength but they seem to have failed. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has managed to increase its vote share noticeably and even won an important seat in the Chennai Corporation.

The Quint analyses the counting trends to understand how DMK has proven itself with a victory for the fourth consecutive time and why AIADMK urgently needs to figure out how to stay relevant in Tamil Nadu.

(The counting of votes was held on Tuesday, 22 February and the final results will be declared by the State Election Commission on Wednesday.)

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After a Decade, DMK and AIADMK Swap Fortunes

As per trends as on 6pm on Tuesday, the DMK won 946 out of total 1,374 city corporation seats, 2,360 out of 3,843 municipality seats and 4,388 out of 7,621 town panchayat seats. These include local bodies on the home turf of AIADMK leaders like former chief ministers K Palaniswami (Edappadi, Salem district) and O Panneerselvam (Periyakulam, Theni district).

It is interesting to note that the seat share recorded by DMK and AIADMK in a span of two years has swapped. As per trends on Tuesday, DMK had recorded a seat share of 57.33% in 2022, a rise of 41.48% from 2011 when it recorded 15.85%.

In the Greater Chennai Corporation, DMK won 153 seats and AIADMK, secured only 15 seats. Other parties, which contested in alliance with DMK, won 25 seats. Ironically, in 2011, AIADMK had swept the Chennai Corporation election by winning 168 seats and DMK had won only 24 seats then.

Meanwhile, AIADMK’s vote share has dipped by 56.14%, and is now at a distant second. The party had recorded a seat share of 71.34% in 2011. DMK alliance has unseated the AIADMK even in its traditional stronghold of western Tamil Nadu where it had lost all 10 Assembly seats in 2021.

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Even past Its Honeymoon Period, DMK Shines

This is the first election after MK Stalin became Chief Minister and he has managed to score a fourth consecutive electoral victory for his party. First, DMK won a landslide victory by winning 38 of the 39 seats in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. After the success of the 2021 Assembly elections, it also swept the rural local body polls in October 2021, which was hailed as a ‘vote of confidence’ for the government.

This time, the ruling DMK had taken up national issues of federalism and state autonomy. Stalin had even proposed the launch of an 'All India Federation For Social Justice,' that would have 'leaders from depressed classes from all States,’ in a bid to bring together non-BJP parties from across India. Experts believe the results can be seen as a reflection of the people's response to the first nine months of the party’s impressive performance in the state.

"The DMK has an edge because they are the government in power and have been winning successively. DMK's honeymoon period is over and several issues have been raised against them. But they have very good support in the urban areas and it is not surprising that they won," said Ramu Manivannan, Head of the Department of Politics & Public Administration at University of Madras.

Political analysts believe the party's trump card was keeping its alliance partners intact.

As long as DMK retains its alliance, it will win. And AIADMK needs to expand its alliances in order to have some power; instead it has been losing out on allies like PMK, DMDK and now BJP. They have clearly not learnt any lessons, even after three defeats.
Rangarajan. Senior Journalist
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If AIADMK Doesn't Strengthen Leadership, They Won't Make It

The AIADMK’s fourth attempt to revive after three successive poll defeats has fallen flat. As per trends, the DMK is leading even in the Kongu belt which is considered to be an AIADMK fortress.

The party's internal crisis as well as its perceived proximity to the BJP, which may have alienated its secular, minority vote base, could have been possible factors. The party lost because the leaders couldn't secure an alliance with the other parties, opined political experts.

"AIADMK did put their heart in the battle but this was not a good time for them. They knew they would not win, leave alone by a big margin. But if they had not fought this election, their party would have to shut shop," said Manivannan.

AIADMK, which has been contesting elections in the state in alliance with the BJP as part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) since 2019, had broken its partnership this time. BJP went solo this time with the party leadership stating, "it wants to strengthen its reach at the ground level and take BJP to every household."

Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), which had walked out of the alliance, has its strength in northern Tamil Nadu which has maximum voters from the Vanniyar community. Their presence in the northern districts affected the prospects of the AIADMK.

A source in to the party told The Quint, "Jayalalithaa always ensured that her alliance with other parties was intact. She knew how important they are, especially for the local body elections. The problem today is that Edappadi Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam are not seen as strong leaders. This is why alliance parties don't have much trust in the party and feel their chances are better if they break away from the party."

"The two leaders complement each other but are not strong leaders of the masses. AIADMK has to figure out a way to strengthen the leadership and keep its flock together, otherwise, they will never see a win."
Ramu Manivannan, Head of the Department of Politics & Public Administration at University of Madras
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BJP: Grown, but not yet Significant

BJP, that has been trying to make inroads into the Dravidian land for decades, has finally made some kind of a dent. As of 7.50 pm, the party has won in 22 corporation wards, 56 municipality wards, and 230 Town Panchayat wards. In 2011, they had won four corporation wards, 37 municipality wards and 185 Town Panchayat wards.

Over 200 candidates won from Kanniyakumari, where national parties have a dominant presence over the Dravidian outfits.

They had expected to score well in the western belt – Coimbatore, Karur, Erode, Krishnagiri – where the party is gradually increasing its presence, but lost to DMK.

The saffron party's victory, though relatively marginal, is noteworthy. It has outperformed regional outfits - the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, PMK, Naam Tamizhar Katchi, and the Vijayakanth-led Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK).

"BJP gives power and this is very important for those who have money and status and want visibility in public life; and couldn't have it with DMK and AIADMK being the only parties in the state. That is why you are seeing support but this doesn't translate to massive vote banks. BJP is not a tree but just a creeper. It exists but isn't significant."
Ramu Manivannan, Head of the Department of Politics & Public Administration at University of Madras

The most significant victory is of Uma Anandhan, who courted controversy for supporting Nathuram Godse who shot Mahatma Gandhi dead. She won from Ward 134 in West Mambalam, defeating the Congress candidate.

Political analysts pointed out that her victory relied largely on the support she had earned individually and also the caste factor.

"There are pockets where upper caste persons are in large numbers and they are obvious RSS/ BJP supporters. So don't misjudge based on a candidate's victory, as it could be because of the caste segregation in the area. Most often TV channels project parties in such a way that the public assumes BJP is the third prominent party. In fact, it is Congress in the third place."
Rangarajan. Senior Journalist
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Congress Comes in Third

The state unit of the Congress has bagged the third largest number of seats, though in alliance with the Dravidian major DMK.

The Congress recorded a strike rate of 40.8% while the overall contested seat share was 4.61%, slightly more than 4.43% in 2011 when it contested alone.

The national party has won 73 corporation wards, 151 municipal and 368 town panchayat councillor posts in the local body elections. Congress has managed to secure 13 wards in Greater Chennai Corporation, a lot more than its national rival BJP, which has won only one seat. They have outdone the BJP by securing three times more corporation councillor seats in the state.

Congress recorded a 2.73% rise in vote share from 2011 to 2022.

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Kamal Haasan's Party Fails to Impress Again

Actor Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam suffered yet another setback with a failure to win even a single seat in the urban local body polls and the fourth election in a row.

However, MNM got a good chunk of votes from urban areas particularly, Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai. In Chennai, MNM finished third in 12 out of the 16 Assembly constituencies.

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Other Parties in the Fray

Actor Vijay’s Makkal Iyakkam has put in a significant performance in the local body polls. 28-year-old J Mohammed Farvace, who contested for the post of ward 4 councillor of Pudukkottai Municipality, won, defeating DMK.

Seeman’s Naam Tamizhar Katchi has won six seats in town panchayats, including five in Kanyakumari district and one in Tenkasi.

The TTV Dhinakaran-led Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam won three corporation wards, 33 in municipalities and 66 in town panchayats.

The DMDK did not win any seat in corporations but secured 12 seats in municipalities and 23 in town panchayats. The SDPI secured one seat in the Coimbatore Municipal Corporation, five and 16 posts in municipalities and town panchayats respectively.

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Topics:  BJP   Tamil Nadu   AIADMK 

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