The new dynamic
Weary of the traditionally binary politics of Tamil Nadu, a new generation of voters has made the outcome of the upcoming elections unpredictable
Voters of Tamil Nadu cannot be judged so easily. Getting the votes from the Tamil Nadu citizens is a difficult task as we can easily understand from the promises of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the performance of the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in the current tenure coupled with promises given in the election campaign. Apart from the huge populist promises of the two political parties, the amount that both the ruling and the main opposition party is going to spend during the election will be unprecedented. Despite all those promises and the money power that they are going to use, they are not confident that they can win the election easily. Before the formal announcement of the election schedule by the Election Commission, the AIADMK and the DMK have started the campaign with full vigour without the support of the alliance partners as they are watching the developments very closely to make an appropriate deal with the major parties the AIADMK and the DMK. The voters are calmly watching the shows of the parties without giving any clue to the parties. There is absolutely no wave in Tamil Nadu despite the AIADMK being in power for the consecutive two terms. The last four years running, the government by the present dispensation led by Edappadi K. Palaniswami is swimming against the current. There is no anti-incumbent wave and yet it cannot be treated as people being in favour of the AIADMK. In that case, can it be considered that conditions are conducive for the DMK? It is also not the case. In the Lok Sabha Election in 2019, the DMK and its allies swept the election and won 38 out of 39 seats. The DMK leaders hailed that people have recognised the leadership of MK Stalin. But in the subsequent by-elections to the State Legislative Assembly, people have reversed the trend and have not disturbed the Edappadi K. Palaniswami regime by giving an edge over the DMK. The same trend continued in rural local body elections. There are a few parties attacking both the DMK and the AIADMK virulently and vehemently for their corrupt practices in politics and governance knowing fully well that in the present contest people will not buy their arguments as voters look at the parties from the economically rational perspective. The public, in short, has been made to be part of the corrupt practices.
It is not good for a healthy democratic politics in Tamil Nadu. It will continue for some more time till the emergence of a new leader with a new narrative and a movement of the people. Everyone expected that Rajnikanth would take a lead and thereby a credible alternative front could be formed to show the people that the third front is a winning force. Unfortunately, it does not take place as there is no fire in him to take the mantle. As a result, the binary politics again started moving ahead under the leadership of the DMK and AIADMK. Wooing and cajoling the smaller parties is not so easy as every party which has some amount of transferable votes feel that to win the election, their votes are crucial. Because in the last Assembly election the DMK lost narrowly with one per cent of the votes. So the two parties apart from macro-management of the electoral process they have to do micro-management scientifically to win the election as they witness there is no charismatic leader in both parties as J Jayalalitha and M Karunanidhi. They were known for the creation of narratives suitable to party men and women and neutral voters. The candidates who are seeking tickets have prepared themselves to sell out huge money to win the election as they know the charisma of their leaders has no value in this election. The DMK hopes to win the election as the BJP is going to align with the AIADMK and thereby, the minority votes in toto will come to the side of the DMK. In the Lok Sabha election, the DMK performed well only because of anti-BJP sentiments. It was the election between Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi. It was not between the DMK and the AIADMK. In the subsequent by-election, that trend had not continued. Now the present assembly election is between the DMK and the AIADMK. It is true that by aligning with the BJP, the AIADMK is going to lose the minority votes. It is also true that the votes of the BJP and neo-Hindu sentiment voters bring a certain percentage of voters may be equivalent to that of the minority voters to the side of the AIADMK. But Edappadi K. Palaniswami is playing his role carefully to keep the traditional support of the minorities by giving promises to them even though the AIADMK is aligning with the BJP.
The new voters and the youth are fed up with the binary politics run on rent-seeking practices, moving towards Tamil nationalist parties and Kamala Hasan. How this is going to affect both parties is not known yet. Voters have made the political parties nervous. That is why both DMK and AIADMK are keen to align with smaller parties, knowing fully well that without them winning the election is not possible. The smaller parties also know very well that their support is crucial for electoral wins and they play their role accordingly. This election is new in many ways and crucial for all the political parties. Hence parties and leaders consider this election as a life and death problem and in such a way, voters have made the political parties participate in the electoral exercises nervously. Anything may happen in politics while firming up the alliances to face the election.
The writer is a former Professor and Rajiv Gandhi Chair for Panchayati Raj Studies, Gandhigram Rural Institute. Views expressed are personal