Tamil Nadu election: The victory had to be Jayalalithaa's, DMK lost wittingly and unwittingly

On Thursday, Chennai woke up to, thanks to overnight rains, fresh green leaves and a missing sun.

Mother nature, in a sense, was at work supplying a (tacky) headline to the event of the day from these parts.

Okay, it is too much to say 'missing sun' when the DMK (for the uninitiated, the rising sun is its poll symbol) has done creditably (at the moment of writing, it was set to secure around 98-100 seats in the 234-seat Assembly), but the re-sprouting of the two leaves (AIADMK's symbol) is a story that is remarkable, especially since it was not predicted by most poll pundits.

Except for one exit poll (C-Voter), no one had given Jayalalithaa's AIADMK 130+ seats that it win. Aside from pollsters, even the talk from the streets ahead of the polls may not have been all that encouraging to the AIADMK as the general perception was DMK's MK Stalin's rough-and-tumble campaign during which he toured the longitude and latitude of the State in relentless vote pursuit, seemed to cut more ice with the general public than the seemingly snooty, high-from-helicopter approach of Jaya. And then there was the anti-incumbency factor, something which no party has bucked in the last 27 years in the State. Also, the anger from the December floods that the AIADMK government had maladroitly handled was seen to singe the party electorally.

So what happened? Why do the numbers that we have now tell a totally different tale?

As with the any election result, the one delivered by TN people on Thursday lends itself to any number of interpretations and extrapolations. You will surely see many 'experts', especially those sitting in comfy cubicles in New Delhi, come up with many psephologistic gobbledygook to further confound the situation.

Jayalalithaa emerged victorious, breaking the anti-incumbency trend. Reuters

Jayalalithaa emerged victorious, breaking the anti-incumbency trend. Reuters

But one reasoning that has a thicker ring of political plausibility to it is: This is an election that the DMK lost. Wittingly and unwittingly.

To be sure, the popular thought that the people have still not forgotten the acts of malfeasance by the DMK leaders (also at the Centre as part of the disastrous UPA governments) is valid. But Jayalalithaa's own track record in matters of corruption is no less sullied (the disproportionate assets case, in which she was found guilty and later let off, is now in the SC and can still come back to haunt her). Corruption as a poll issue, these days, is just the crust, and not the whole cake, as it were.

Looking back, the major mistake that the DMK did was to align with the Congress. It seems more a decision to save Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi (cue: internal family feud and the monstrous 2G scandal) than to shore up his son Stalin's chief ministerial aspirations. The Congress is losing ground across the country. But in TN it has slipped unimaginably for other reasons. Its duplicity on the Sri Lankan Tamil imbroglio (even in a situation when it is not a poll issue any more) is something that the people don't want to forgive it for easily. To be sure, Congress candidates have won, but that is more due to their own personal standing in those specific constituencies (they would win under any symbol) and on DMK's backing. Till some watershed occurs, people of Tamil Nadu would keep punishing the Congress. By this logic, it is not impossible to conclude that the Congress became the proverbial albatross around the hapless DMK's neck.

The DMK's own mistake may have been in fielding the same old hackneyed names and more importantly in projecting Karunanidhi as its chief ministerial candidate. In a hi-tech campaign, which saw the DMK reach out to young urban voters in a manner it has never done before using new-fangled technological tools, playing a 93-year-old tired old man as its centre forward was never going to get it the goals. Stalin, who for all practical purposes was leading the campaign, should have been its official candidate for CM post too. But again the dreaded F word — family — was the problem. If Karunanidhi had done so, he feared, his prodigal son MK Alagiri — a violent enigma wrapped in a stupid mystery — would have been hard to contain. So Karunanidhi let status quo prevail much to unpalatable consequences now.

The DMK's other failure was not its all its own, of course. The comical caboodle of DMDK, MDMK, VCK, CPI, CPM and TMC, which was widely alleged to be the AIADMK's shadowy second string, played spoilsport. Though the combo has drawn a deserving zero, it was the nuisance that the DMK, on a luckier occasion, could have done without. The late-surge of the BJP, on the other hand, did eat into AIADMK's votes, but it was of no avail — either to the BJP itself or for the DMK, which can feel that it did not have the rub of the green.


The apathy of urban voters (Chennai's poor voter turn out) also ensured that the righteous anger that the State was witness to in the aftermath of December deluge did not kick in in the manner that the DMK would have expected.

With so many factors tragically working against it, the DMK, almost seems like South Africa in a world cup type cricket tournament — winning was not in its destiny. It was the opposite of the AIADMK, which looks fated to rewrite the political script of the state. Jayalalithaa can claim credit (and quite typically she has already) for the triumph of her party. She is the party and there will be none to dispute it. Victory is hers and a celebratory champagne is in order (especially since the the problematic prohibition that the other parties promised in total is now off the table).

Anyway, looking forward, with just thirty odd seats separating the AIADMK and the DMK alliance group, the Assembly sessions in coming days will be much more vitiated, and dare one say, violent.

The headlines then will surely not be tacky or handy metaphors on cool nature.

The author is Editor of NewsToday, Chennai.

Updated Date: May 20, 2016 13:18 PM

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