How Did The DMK-Led Alliance Win A Clean Sweep In Tamil Nadu In Spite Of Anti-Incumbency And Corruption Allegations?

S Rajesh

Jun 06, 2024, 12:31 PM | Updated 08:50 PM IST

DMK and its alliance partners won all 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu.
DMK and its alliance partners won all 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu.
  • DMK scores clean sweep in Tamil Nadu, winning all 39 Lok Sabha seats. Reasons include minority consolidation, women's vote, and corruption allegations fading away.
  • The ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and its alliance partners won all 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state, in a repeat of what happened in 2019.

    While it is true that the DMK was expected to do well and the exit polls too had stated the same, most people felt that the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would be able to win a few seats and reduce the tally of the DMK alliance, given the anti-incumbency against the state government.

    The reasons included allegations of corruption against a number of senior leaders of the party, the involvement of a party functionary (later expelled) in an international drug cartel and the government being found wanting during times of crisis, ie, the floods in Chennai and southern Tamil Nadu. 

    What then could be the reasons for the clean sweep? Here are some possibilities...

    Minority Consolidation Behind DMK Alliance; AIADMK’s Minority Appeasement After Breaking Ties With BJP Failed

    Minorities, ie, the Muslims and Christians seem to have voted en masse in favour of the DMK-led alliance. 

    The AIADMK had hoped to garner a significant chunk of the minority vote by breaking ties with the BJP but its efforts seem to have come a cropper. 

    Soon after leaving the NDA, the party had demanded the release of Muslim prisoners serving long sentences (including those convicted for their role in the 1998 Coimbatore blasts) and its leader Edappadi Palaniswami (EPS) had made remarks saying that the AIADMK would protect the minorities like the "eyelid protects the eye".

    Large Chunk Of Women's Vote In DMK's Kitty Due To Monthly Rs 1,000 Scheme

    Freebies like free bus travel for women and the Rs 1,000 given every month to women under the Magalir Urimai Thogai scheme seem to have worked for the party and ensured that a large chunk of the women’s vote came its way.

    DMK Did Not Lose Any Of Its Allies To AIADMK

    After the AIADMK broke up with the BJP, it was expected that some of the DMK’s alliance partners, including the Congress could join hands with the AIADMK, in order to get a better deal, ie, more seats than what the DMK would part with. The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) led by Dalit leader Thirumavalavan, was one of the primary targets. However, none of them joined the AIADMK camp.

    The only allies that the party managed to get were the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), which is now a mere shadow of its former avatar and the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which is alleged to be the political arm of the now banned Popular Front of India (PFI).

    Corruption Allegations Got Weakened After ED Officer's Arrest And Faded Away From Public Memory

    The entire leadership of the DMK had been rattled by allegations of corruption in the past few years.

    While Senthil Balaji, the minister for excise and power was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for his role in connection with a cash-for-jobs scam during his previous tenure as transport minister, other ministers like K Ponmudy, Thangam Thennarasu, and K K S S R Ramachandran, saw the Madras High Court undertaking suo moto revisions of their acquittals and discharges in cases related to accumulation of disproportionate assets.

    Others like E V Velu and S Jagathrakshakan also came under the scanner of central agencies.

    Finance Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan's portfolio was changed to Information Technology (IT) after the emergence of an audio tape, in which the voice, alleged to be that of Thiaga Rajan, stated that Udhayanidhi Stalin and V Sabareesan (Chief Minister Stalin's son in law) had amassed Rs 30,000 crore.

    The latest was the issue of illegal river sand mining in which the ED was expected to summon Water Resources Minister Duraimurugan for questioning.

    In reaction to the raids, the DMK kept saying that the BJP government was misusing the central agencies. It also challenged some of the actions in court. The ED's image however took a blow after the arrest of one of its officers, Ankit Tiwari for allegedly taking a Rs 20 lakh bribe.

    After that, investigations slowed down and the DMK was likely able to drive home its point and the incidents slowly faded away from public memory.

    DMK’s Projection That INDI Alliance Is Winning

    The DMK leadership went about with confidence saying that the INDI Alliance would win. Tamil YouTube channels sympathetic to the party even debated who could get which portfolio in the Union cabinet after the defeat of Narendra Modi.

    Ability To Make It Feel Like A State Or Local Election And Not A National Election

    While national level themes like ‘saving the Constitution’, ‘saving the country from fascism’ etc, were invoked by the DMK, the party mostly managed to make it feel like it was more of an election based on state level issues.

    Issues like infrastructure, industrial development, getting investments to the state, who would be the prime minister if the INDI Alliance wins, etc, were not much talked about in campaigns. A more ‘national narrative’ might have helped the BJP perform better.

    Opposition Supporters See No Difference Between DMK And AIADMK

    Voters who dislike the BJP are likely to have thought that there is no difference between the DMK and the AIADMK, as both of them would sit in the opposition. They might have thought that voting for the DMK would be more helpful as it is in power in the state.

    Will The AIADMK And The BJP Join Hands Once Again?

    While the AIADMK kept saying that there was no question of it joining hands with the BJP again, the DMK went to town saying that the split was only a drama and that it was just a matter of time before the two of them patched up. This narrative might have played on the minds of voters, especially those belonging to the minority communities.

    The AIADMK Itself Is More Keen On 2026

    According to political observers, unlike the BJP which was seeing 2024 as a big moment and an opportunity to send as many MPs as possible from Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK was more interested in its performance in the upcoming assembly elections in 2026 to capture power in the state and thus did not put in its heart and soul to take on the DMK.

    The AIADMK Did Not Have A Prime Minister Face

    At a time when elections in the country have become more 'presidential', ie, being fought on the face of a leader, the AIADMK did not have any face to project as the prime ministerial candidate. The DMK alliance on the other hand could at least indicate that Rahul Gandhi would be the prime minister, similar to what it did in 2019.

    Answering questions about this issue, Palaniswami had said that his was not the only party that was fighting elections without a PM face. He cited the example of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) led by Naveen Patnaik in Odisha and the Yuva Jana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) in Andhra Pradesh.

    Lack Of An Alliance Between The AIADMK And The BJP Could Have Helped The DMK

    A calculation of votes secured by the BJP and the AIADMK in some seats when compared with that of the winning party, ie, the DMK or its alliance partners would give the picture that if the two parties were together, their common candidate would have won.

    However, that may not be true in all cases. The reason for that is the fact the vote-transfer between the two, especially from the AIADMK to the BJP, is not as good as what happens between the DMK alliance partners.

    S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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