One thing is almost certain. There is going to be no sweep as was witnessed in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections when the DMK combine got all 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu and the lone seat in Pondicherry while the AIADMK drew a blank. This time the DMK alliance is a truncated one and includes the Congress and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK).
Jayalalitha's AIADMK has stitched up a coalition that includes the PMK, MDMK, CPI and the CPI(M). She claims she has an "unbeatable combination". With the CPI, CPI(M) and the MDMK moving over to her side, all indications are that the AIADMK will get ahead with a majority. The DMK alliance, though, may not be demolished completely.
Tamil Nadu has supported either a DMK or AIADMK alliance in the Lok Sabha elections in the last many years. But the picture has altered somewhat this time. The biggest change is the presence of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), started by actor Vijayakanth who has decided to go it alone. He could be the "hurdle" factor before the AIADMK as well as the DMK. While he may or may not get seats (the regional vs national credentials factor), he is expected to play spoiler.
Ironically for Karunanidhi-who has always projected himself as a protector of Tamils-this time that reputation is in tatters. Although the Sri Lankan Tamil problem has never been a poll issue, this time there is no telling how the endgame for the LTTE in Sri Lanka is going to play itself out. The Congress is seen now as the government at the Centre which did nothing to enforce a ceasefire, safeguard the civilians at the mercy of both, the LTTE and the army. The DMK, one of their major allies, is seen as complicit in this. In fact, action is being sought against the Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (PDK) which was distributing CDs containing gory scenes of dead or injured Tamils. TNCC president K.V. Thangkabalu submitted a copy of the CD and a memorandum on the matter to chief electoral officer Naresh Gupta on April 4. Additional DGP (law and order) T. Rajendran says they have information that the CD may be finding its way to "constituencies where the Congress is contesting".
While the Congress is not expected to improve on its impressive 2004 tally of 10 seats, Karunanidhi has tied himself in knots over the Lankan issue. First, he got the assembly to pass three resolutions demanding that the Centre pressurise the Lankan government to impose a ceasefire.
|Vaiko offers a glass of juice to Jayalalitha as she breaks her day-long fast for the implementation of a ceasefire in Sri Lanka on March 9. Courtesy PTI
He followed it up with the en masse "resignation" threat by DMK MPs which Jayalalitha rightly labelled a "drama" (all the letters were handed to Karunanidhi and not the LS speaker).
The DMK chief ended up with egg on his face since no one finally quit the House.
Then Karunanidhi has had to contend with Ramadoss, who was extremely critical of the DMK government on a range of issues-including the Tamil question-when he was an ally. Now it's open season between them. The damage that Ramadoss did fettered in Karunanidhi's rainbow coalition is nothing compared to his shrill criticism now that he has aligned with Jayalalitha.
On the Sri Lanka question at least, Jayalalitha has, by going on a fast and contributing over Rs 2.1 crore in humanitarian aid, toned down the contradiction of teaming up with Vaiko's MDMK, part of her alliance even before this poll was called. Incidentally, the AIADMK has traditionally held a strong anti-LTTE position. She had even booked Vaiko under POTA for his comments on the issue when she was CM.
Jayalalitha's Lankan credentials were also boosted by getting the CPI, the first political party that brought the Sri Lankan Tamil issue into the political consciousness of TN, and the CPI(M) into her alliance. But despite so much heat generated on the Sri Lanka issue by all players, writer Gnani says emphatically, "It's just one-upmanship. Polls have never been fought on the Lankan Tamil issue. Local issues like prices, corruption and caste equations will decide who wins."
Adds V. Geeta, publisher, Tara Publications, and a keen observer of Dravidian politics: "I find the open cynicism of all the parties very disquieting. In the Tamil context, the two alliances are not merely opportunistic, but brazen in their un-seriousness. Apart from the Eelam issue, there is nothing else that is discussed in the popular press as a serious election issue-never mind the fact that the space for democracy in TN is shrinking. The exigencies of electoral politics have forced even the Left parties, relatively people-friendly, to link themselves to Jayalalitha, which doesn't endear them to those of the cadre who fight in unions and canvass on the streets."
Even Vaiko, a candidate for the Virudhanagar LS seat, occasionally lists the people's grievances like "power cuts, sand smuggling, the recent violence on the High Court premises and the betrayal of the state on the Cauvery, Palar and Mullaperiyar water disputes". He was in the news recently when he stated that there will be a "bloodbath" in TN if LTTE chief Prabhakaran is killed. Later, after being arrested for sedition, he was still belligerent saying that "if one Vaiko is jailed, thousands of Vaikos will emerge". Both the CPI and the CPI(M) are clearly upset with Vaiko's rhetoric.
The seat-sharing plans of both fronts are in place. The DMK is contesting 21 seats and has allocated 16 seats (plus one for Pondicherry) to the Congress and two to the VCK. On the other hand, Jayalalitha has stitched up a coalition that includes AIADMK (23 seats), PMK (six plus one in Pondicherry), MDMK (four seats), and CPI and CPI(M) three seats each.
Trends & key issues
Number of constituencies: 39 Polling date: May 13
The AIADMK has stitched up a better alliance and a good showing is likely for its front. May not be a clean sweep.
The DMK and its partners are fighting anti-incumbency. Has also lost allies to the AIADMK.
DMK chief Karunanidhi's image of being a protector of Tamils takes a beating with his ambiguous stand on the Lankan Tamil issue.
Many voters not so cool with Karunanidhi inducting his sons and daughter into the DMK.
In the DMK alliance there are several layers of apprehension and discomfort. Myladuthurai sitting MP for three terms and Union minister for panchayati raj, Mani Shankar Aiyar, has admitted that scientific surveys "showed that my support among the population went down between 2007 and February 2009. Even though it is still substantial, I will have to fight this election very seriously". This was before Ramadoss crossed the floor to the AIADMK. Now that the Vanniyars, who are sizeable in number in his constituency, are going to vote against the DMK-Congress combine not just in Myladuthurai, but in about 8-9 constituencies where they are dominant, the arithmetic will favour the AIADMK and its allies.
Another factor going against the DMK combine on the ground is that cadre of the allied parties, the Congress and the DMK or the Congress and the VCK, do not see eye to eye. The Congress has also not come to terms yet with the fact that its bastion, Kanyakumari, has gone to the DMK. For days, Congressmen kept up a vociferous protest till they were quelled by party leaders. On the face of it, the DMK with its freebies that include rice at Re 1, free colour TVs etc should be able to swing the electorate to its side. But the impact might be diluted since many are ongoing schemes, on for the last two years since the DMK came to power. So there's no novelty value.
Where the DMK has also lost public sympathy is the public perception that it's a dynastic party, starting with its chief Karunanidhi virtually handing over the reins to son, Stalin, and giving the Madurai seat to his other progeny, Azhagiri. Then there's the prodigal grand-nephew Dayanidhi Maran, again being fielded from Chennai Central. Incidentally, the sycophants are already hailing Azhagiri as a Union minister.
Karunanidhi is particularly concerned because Jayalalitha's one-point agenda, many in the DMK fear, is to have his government dismissed. And if her formation wins and the post-poll scenario sees her being a major player at the Centre, then the empress will definitely have her say. Should she align with the UPA, then it's virtually curtains for the Congress alliance with the DMK. A lot is at stake for both Dravidian parties.
Courtesy Outlook, India