Stalin’s Long Road to Victory: How Hindutva Forces Were Kept Out
Importantly, DMK’s allies, instead of thanking Stalin, are thanking Tamil voters for keeping out Hindutva forces.
The long wait is over. MK Stalin will — at long last — become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, a post that had been eluding him for at least two decades. First, because his father Muthuvel Karunanidhi was still on the scene, and then because arch rival J Jayalalithaa of the AIADMK had kept his party DMK at bay for two consecutive elections.
Now fully out of his father’s shadow, and in the absence of Jayalalithaa on the other side, Stalin’s success in leading DMK back to power after a 10-year break seemed almost a given. Though it has not been the sort of landslide that pre-poll and exit poll surveys had indicated, the DMK and its allies have gained a comfortable majority, with the DMK itself clearing the half-way mark of 118.
The Glue that Held DMK’s Allies Together
It is a victory fathered by multiple factors, not the least, the projection of these elections as the Dravidian ideology’s fight against the brahminical domination of the Hindutva forces represented by the BJP. The allies of the BJP, the principal one being the AIADMK, were also tarred with the same brush and portrayed as ‘Hindutva proxies’.
In fact, it was the ‘keep-Hindutva-out-of-Tamil Nadu’ sentiment that was the glue holding parties like CPI, CPM and the Congress to remain as DMK allies, despite being humiliated during the seat-sharing process.
And significantly, the leaders of these parties, instead of thanking Stalin for leading the alliance to victory, are thanking the people of Tamil for keeping the Hindutva forces at bay.
All DMK allies like the Congress and the two left parties as well as smaller ones like Viduthalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK), Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and parties representing the Muslim community, have all notched-up wins or are on the verge of winning. The Congress is a big gainer, closing in on 17 out of the 25 seats it contested.
Has AIADMK Done Very Badly? Not Entirely
It is not as if the AIADMK itself has done badly. The possibility of closing the election with a tally of around 70 is not a rout for a party, which had all these years been dependent only on the charisma of, first, MG Ramachandran, and then J Jayalalalithaa.
In fact, this is the first election since the 1972 by-elections for the Dindigul Lok Sabha seat, where both the AIADMK and DMK were without their charismatic leaders.
Unlike the DMK, where M Karunanidhi had groomed his son Stalin over nearly three decades as his heir, there was no second-level leadership in the AIADMK when Jayalalithaa died four years ago.
However, Edapadi K Palaniswamy, who became chief minister after a series of intriguing developments post-Jayalalithaa’s death, had managed to consolidate the party and the government behind him. Though his hold on the party was weak, given the fact that he had to settle for dual control, sharing the leadership with his one-time arch rival O Panneerselvam, he had emerged as the sole leader by the time elections were announced.
Regions Where AIADMK Has Performed Well
Considering the fact that AIADMK had to face anti-incumbency after a 10 year rule, and also had to take the flak for several of the Modi government’s decisions, including the unplanned roll-out of GST, the farm laws and the implementation of the NEET for admissions to medical and engineering colleges, its overall performance is not really disastrous. The party is hovering around 70, as the results and trends are still emerging.
The party may have been routed in the northern districts, traditional DMK strongholds, and the Cauvery delta region, where it has managed just a handful of seats. But AIADMK and its allies have done extremely well in the western belt or what is called Kongu Nadu, comprising districts like Coimbatore, Salem, Erode and Tiruppur, where they have bagged more than 30 of the 50 seats.
It can also take heart from its performance in the central and southern region, where it has managed to pick up some seats.
But its biggest challenge now lies ahead: will Palaniswamy be able to keep the party together till the next elections?
Attempts by TTV Dhinakaran, the nephew of Jayalalithaa’s long-time aide VK Sasikala, to mount a challenge with his Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), have taken a beating. He can still be expected to renew his efforts.
Why BJP & PMK Had to Bite the Dust
But the same cannot be said for its main allies, the BJP and the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK). BJP — which had originally demanded 60 seats but was forced to settle for 20 — could manage just four, including its Mahila Morcha leader Vanathi Srinivasan, who won a ding-dong battle against actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan.
Not surprisingly, most of BJP’s state level leaders, including Kushboo Sundar, have bitten the dust, a clear rejection of the right-wing party.
PMK, a party that serves the interests of the Vanniar community, the dominant caste in northern districts of Tamil Nadu, paid the price for its casteist politics. The party had arm-twisted the AIADMK government to grant the Vanniar community a 10.15 percent sub-quota within the quota for the most backward classes. The backlash could be seen in the consolidation of other communities that resulted in the PMK getting washed out in these districts, but managing to pick up five seats in the peripheries of the region.
These Elections Have Proven that Tamil Nadu Remains a Two-Party State
But the surprise of the pack is the BJP itself, which has a clear lead in three constituencies and is locked in a ding-dong battle in the fourth, though not surprisingly, most of its state level leaders have bitten the dust. This will no doubt give the party hope of improving its performance in later years.
More importantly, these elections have made it clear that Tamil Nadu is still a two-party state — DMK and AIADMK — and the emergence of a third alternative is still remote.
Actor Kamal Haasan’s hopes of providing an alternative have been dashed, with the candidates of his party Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) ending third or fourth in all constituencies that the party contested, expect in Coimbatore South where Haasan himself lost by a narrow margin to BJP’s Vanathi Srinivasan.
The same applies to filmmaker Seeman’s Naam Thamizhar Katchi (NTK),which, with its hyper-Tamil nationalist pitch, had hoped to make some breakthrough, but has only managed to emerge a distant third in most constituencies it contested.
BJP’s Breakthrough in Puducherry
But it has not been all gloom for BJP in the south. The party is on the threshold of forming a government in Puducherry, as a junior partner of the All Indian NR Congress (AINRC) a regional party headed for former Chief Minister N Rangaswamy. With 16 needed to get a majority (at the time of writing this article), the combination has already won 13 (NRC — 10 and BJP — 3), and with the BJP candidates having a comfortable lead in three other constituencies.
This is a major breakthrough for the BJP, as for the first time, it has managed to get its candidates elected to the Union Territory assembly.
Thanks to Kiran Bedi and her tenure as Lt Governor, the BJP had three nominated members in the last assembly, and the intrigues from Pondy Raj Nivas ensured that three Congress MLAs quit weeks before the end of their terms, thus, bringing down the Congress government headed by V Narayanasamy.
This time round, the Congress has been all but wiped out, and its ally DMK is limping towards winning six seats.
(Kalyan Arun is a veteran journalist and political analyst. He is currently a professor at the Asian College of Journalism. He tweets @kalyanarun. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.