Jaya takes Tamil Nadu by storm
Defying a combined opposition onslaught on her allegedly corrupt rule, the 68-year old AIDMK Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalithaa historically sailed into a second successive term, turning on its head the exit polls projecting her political exit with a triumphant return of arch-rival, 93-year old Karunanidhi, at the head of DMK-Congress alliance.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi had rushed to congratulate Jayalalithaa, as results flowed in the forenoon of May 19, he himself was no less denunciatory of Tamil Nadu regimes of both Dravidian majors over the past fifty years, wallowing in a “cesspool of corruption” while campaigning for his party in the state. He said Tamil Nadu needed “new governance” on the model his BJP had instituted at the Centre.
Modi did not take the names of Dravidian leaders for his charge, given his Government’s expectations on continued support by Jayalalithaa’s party for all Central policies and schemes, with the strong presence of AIDMK in both houses of Parliament. But his Ministers went hammer and tongs for the AIDMK government and against “inaccessible” Chief Minister.
Jayalalithaa becomes the first Chief Minister to win two consecutive elections (2011 and 2016), after 1984 when her mentor and late Chief Minister M G Ramachandran had set such a record.
Jayalalithaa’s impressive victory also underlined that there was no strong anti-incumbency wave on which Karunanidhi and his DMK besides other state level parties had hoped to benefit.
Even otherwise, the DMK-Congress alliance for the 234-member Assembly,(with DMK contesting 176 seats, 41 by Congress and rest by state parties) certainly looked formidable the way Karunanidhi had marshalled anti-Jaya forces and seemed to be enjoying the prospect of becoming Chief Minister for the sixth term.
The DMK leader, ignoring physical disabilities, intensely toured across the districts to re-energise the party and with his determination to avenge the humiliating defeat the party suffered in 2011. For months, his son M K Stalin had visited all districts and conducted a high-octane poll campaign. Karunanidhi began making huge promises including total prohibition if elected to power on the first day of office.
He had also hinted he would pass on the mantle to Stalin at an appropriate time. It is now evident both Karunanidhi, Stalin and other DMK leaders had mainly counted on an anti-incumbency wave in the major regions of the state and expected almost a walk-over in the Chennai area, especially due to AIDMK’s mismanagement of the rain havoc of last December. The ruling party yielded ground to DMK in Chennai.
Looking at the broader picture, it is no mean achievement for Karunanidhi and Stalin to have re-established the dominance of his DMK gaining over 100 seats, after having been reduced to a mere 23 seats in 2011. Jayalalithaa was re-elected from her Dr. Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency in North Chennai while the DMK leader also retained his Tiruvarur constituency in the Cauvery delta.
As counting continued into the afternoon, the results indicated ruling AIDMK winning or holding around 125 seats with a loss of over 20 seats in the outgoing Assembly while DMK recorded major gains across the state winning 105 seats or a gain of 75 seats.
Such strong DMK-led opposition in the new TN Assembly which would be constituted before the end of May would not be giving the same comfort Jayalalithaa and her Ministers enjoyed since 2011. Governance and policy issues could become more demanding for the ruling party and contentious times are ahead with a powerful opposition. But it could be a positive in terms of more transparency and accountability for the ruling AIDMK.
In effect, the 2016 elections have not brought about any change in the configuration of TN political system being dominated over the decades by the two major Dravidian formations –AIDMK and DMK – though there was some expectation of signs of a new political culture emerging, especially with the pre-poll formation of a Third Front .
This grouping of six relatively smaller parties in the State had, theoretically at least, an appeal beyond its strength and influence with its advocacy of deliverance of Tamil Nadu from the grip of corruption which had characterised the Dravidian majors and call for healthy governance and social welfare programmes rid of freebies.
Unfortunately, none of the six parties made even little gains. Notably, all three prominent outside Dravidian majors, Capt.Vijaykant of DMDK, who was designated leader of the Third Front (People’s Welfare Front), Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, MP who proclaimed himself Chief Ministerial candidate and harbinger of change, belonging to PMK of Dr. Ramadoss and Tamilisai Soundarajan, President of TN BJP were trailing in their constituencies till late afternoon on the day of counting.
s Jayalalithaa crossed the midway mark of 118 seats, she claimed victory and said the poll outcome showed that voters have ended “family rule” of Karunanidhi, one of her campaign themes while seeking support for her party.
She had taken care to list all her “achievements”, mainly fulfillment of welfare promises (freebies included) she had made in 2011, in all her mass rallies. She generously added new promises, one of which would test her government’s will and credibility - phased implementation of prohibition. IPA
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)