One of the major reasons why the NDA lost the polls is because Modi was blamed by the Tamil media for every sin committed by a Dravidian political leadership.
Another is the usual lure of freebies. Tamil Nadu is notorious for voting for any party that offers free money, even if it be a pittance.
As in the 2014 polls, Tamil Nadu voted differently again in the Lok Sabha elections this time. While the whole nation voted for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Tamil Nadu chose to simply show the door to the alliance.
In 2014, when the entire nation chose to vote NDA, BJP and Narendra Modi to power, Tamil Nadu gave the alliance just two seats - one to BJP and the other to Pattali Makkal Katchi - and 37 to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) out of the 39 seats in the state.
This time, the NDA led by AIADMK has been able to win only a solitary seat, while the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has won 37 seats. Elections to Vellore constituency was cancelled after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) found cash totalling Rs 10 crore in the premises of the DMK candidate Kathir Anand.
Tamil Nadu has been in sync with Kerala in voting against the NDA and the BJP both in 2014 and now. We had analysed why the Congress decimated the Left and swamped Kerala . So, how did the UPA and DMK manage to sweep Tamil Nadu and dash NDA’s hopes?
On the other hand, the AIADMK, in alliance with other parties in the NDA, has been able to stymie the DMK’s efforts to take over the reins of the state by winning nine of the 22 Assembly constituencies where byelections were held along with polls to the Lok Sabha. The DMK won the rest, but it had the unenviable task of winning at least 21 of the 22 to stake a claim to form the government. The vacancies in the Assembly were caused with 18 MLAs being disqualified, apart from the deaths of members, including DMK patron and former chief minister M Karunanidhi.
Quite a few factors played out in Tamil Nadu for the NDA’s washout. The first reason for the UPA to sweep Tamil Nadu was that the NDA failed to get the votes it anticipated to win as a combination of various parties, just the way the Mahagathbandhan in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar flopped.
In 2014, the AIADMK alone won 44.3 per cent of the votes that were polled. In this election, the NDA as a whole has been able to garner only 30 per cent of the votes. Minus the AIADMK, the NDA had got 18.5 per cent of the votes in 2014, when the Marumalarchi DMK was a part of it then.
Alliance partners like Pattali Makkal Katchi and Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) seemed to have won the same percentage of votes as in the 2016 Assembly elections.
The BJP had got over 12 per cent of the votes in 2014, though in 2016 Assembly elections it got 2.7 per cent. The BJP had earned more votes than in 2016 but it has got a lower percentage than in 2014 this time.
This means the AIADMK, which got an overwhelming 44.3 per cent in 2014, has slipped badly. It got only 18.5 per cent of the votes this time. This is a clear indication that the AIADMK had failed to add much to the NDA’s kitty, though the mainstream media (MSM) in Tamil Nadu terms this an anti-Modi wave!
The second reason is there is more of anti-incumbency against the AIADMK than any wave against Modi. The AIADMK has been in power since 2011, gone through a split and still hasn’t been able to recover fully from the blows it has received since the death of its supremo J Jayalalithaa. In southern Tamil Nadu, it didn’t have any young cadre to campaign for the NDA and in places like Tirunelveli, it was the BJP which got its partymen work for the alliance.
The third reason for the NDA’s poor show was the AIADMK focussed more on the byelections to the Assembly since its government in the state faced danger. Nothing can be more illustrative than the fact that the AIADMK won nine seats of the 22 seats and managed to garner 38.2 per cent of the votes compared with the DMK’s 45.1 per cent.
If some NDA contacts are to be believed, the AIADMK didn’t go for door-to-door campaigning for the Lok Sabha seats. The Theni Lok Sabha constitutency from where Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam son won was an exception. The AIADMK leadership just confined itself to holding roadshows, though it tried all its tricks for the Assembly polls. That explains why the NDA had performed better in the Assembly polls than the Lok Sabha elections.
The fourth factor was how the impact of the new forces in this elections affected the NDA prospects. There were two new parties - Makkal Neethi Maiam and Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) this time, besides the Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK), which has been active in the last couple of elections.
MNM was founded by Tamil film actor Kamal Hassan, while AMMK by TTV Dinakaran, nephew of the AIADMK late supremo Jayalalithaa’s aide Sasikala Natarajan, who was expelled from the AIADMK.
These three parties have totally garnered 12 per cent which made a difference in at least eight seats. MNM picked up over a lakh votes in Chennai, its suburbs and other cities like Coimbatore, Madurai and Salem. AMMK dented NDA’s chances in Ramanathapuram, Chidambaram, Tenkasi and Madurai. Similarly, NTK picked up a significant number of votes in the elections. NTK seemed to have attracted those elements who are seen as pro-LTTE and pro-Lankan Tamils as they never vote for the DMK given its track record in handling the Tamil Eelam issue in Sri Lanka.
Poor Candidate Selection
The fifth factor was wrong selection of constituencies by the NDA, costing it a bit. For example, the BJP should have contested from South Chennai and Central Chennai. The reasons are that the elite in South Chennai have traditionally supported the BJP, while Central Chennai has a significant number of North Indian population.
Instead, AIADMK sought re-election from South Chennai as a result of which a retired IAS official contesting on an MNM ticket walked away with 1.25 lakh votes.
In Central Chennai, the PMK candidate was no match for a person like Dayanidhi Maran of the DMK and he couldn’t even save his deposit. The BJP could have opted for Tiruneveli than Thoothukudi which was thrust upon it by the AIADMK.
The sixth factor was how the MSM painted the BJP and Modi as villains ever since the protests demanding conduct of jallikattu (bull fight) were held in Tamil Nadu in January 2016. From then on, Modi and BJP had to bear the cross for anything wrong in Tamil Nadu with the MSM blaming them than really trying to find the real cause for the problem.
For example, jallikattu was banned during the UPA regime in which the DMK was an active partner. But when the protests broke, Modi and the BJP were blamed. In fact, it was they who came up with the legal loophole to help conduct the bullfights but not a single Tamilian was ready to acknowledge this.
Second, the National Entrance Eligibility Test (NEET) for admission to medical colleges was brought by the UPA. But when NEET was held in 2017 after Nalini Chidambaram, senior advocate and wife of senior Congress leader P Chidambaram, fought and won a case in the Supreme Court for CBSE syllabus, Modi was blamed.
It was during UPA that permission was given for exploration of gas and crude in places like Neduvasal. Again, the blame was on the BJP.
Tamil Nadu faced a shortage of water in the Cauvery delta in 2017 and 2018. The Opposition demanded the setting up of the Cauvery Water Management Board as ordered by the Supreme Court. This is an issue that has been pending since 2013 March but the Opposition, particularly the DMK, blamed Modi saying he was delaying it in view of the Karnataka Assembly elections in May 2018.
In May 2018, when 13 persons were killed in police firing in Tuticorin, where a group of protesters demanded closure of the Sterlite Copper Plant turned violent, the DMK and the rest of the Opposition blamed Modi and BJP again.
One of the primary allegations against Modi and the BJP has been that they were instrumental in the AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu headed by Edappadi K Palaniswami continuing in power.
Blame Modi, Without Application Of Mind
The regrettable aspect of all these allegations against the DMK is that the MSM tended to go with the Opposition and DMK rather than present facts objectively.
For instance, the MSM never tried to bring to light how the late Karunanidhi had surrendered 100 thousand million cubic (TMC) feet of water from Tamil Nadu’s share in 1976 in favour of Karnataka. In the case of Tuticorin, how can the Centre be held responsible for the action of the police that is a state subject. It is the chief minister who is in full control of the police. The late Karunanidhi took it lying down in 1971 when then prime minister Indira Gandhi rejected his plea for talks on Cauvery until the Lok Sabha polls got over.
No doubt, the BJP’s state leadership - the seventh factor for the flop show - failed to counter these allegations properly. Its counter and response were pretty weak or unconvincing.
But in its defence, the BJP can well claim that the majority of the MSM was aligned against it. There is some truth in this. There were at least seven television channels, all of them with significant viewership, painting the BJP red.
The Sun Television group - owned by DMK’s Marans -, Kalaignar Television - owned by the late Karunanidhi’s family, Puthiya Thalaimurai, whose promoter and IJK party’s founder P R Pachamuthu won from Perambalur for UPA, Jaya TV, now in control of TTV Dinakaran family, TV18, Sathyam TV and Thanthi TV were all up with topics for discussions that affected the BJP more than any other party.
Besides these television channels, there were a host of other media groups like The Hindu, Vikatan and Nakheeran to discredit the BJP and Modi at every available opportunity. There’s no doubt that the Tamil Nadu MSM played a prominent role in discrediting the BJP, particularly Modi, for no real fault.
Also, the media simply bought the DMK allegations that the BJP and Modi were keeping the AIADMK government afloat in Tamil Nadu. It is a wonder why the DMK or the other opposition parties were never questioned over their not moving a no-confidence motion against the Palaniswami government instead of blaming Modi and the BJP.
After Palaniswami won a vote of confidence in February 2017, the DMK moved a no confidence motion against Assembly Speaker P Dhanapal but its efforts failed. Since then, only now it has again given a notice to move a no confidence motion against Dhanapal.
What DMK has done smartly is that in order to hide its inability to topple the AIADMK government, it has blamed the BJP and Modi - a fact that has gone unquestioned by the MSM in the state till date.
The eighth factor was the impression the ED raids on those close to the DMK created on the minds of the people in Tamil Nadu. The ED first searched the premises of the DMK candidate Kathir Anand in Vellore constituency. It also conducted search operations at the place from where Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, daughter of the late Karunanidhi and senior DMK leader, was carrying out her campaign in Thoothukudi constituency. The DMK and the rest of the opposition was able to convince the voters that they were being targeted specifically.
The people in Tamil Nadu bought this argument. Why? That’s the ninth factor - money. There can be no two opinions on money being a prime factor in deciding the outcome of elections in Tamil Nadu beginning from 2009 during the byelections to the Thirumangalam Assembly constituency in Madurai.
The payment of cash to voters for their votes is now popular as the Thirumangalam formula. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, there were many in rural Tamil Nadu who cast their votes in favour of the AIADMK for a meagre Rs 300 per vote. The AIADMK managed to win the 2016 Assembly elections, too, because it paid more than the DMK to the voters, who benefitted from the largesse given by these Dravidian parties.
“It may look meagre. But imagine if a family has four members of voting age, it would mean Rs 1,200 to the family,” was the counter from some of those who favoured the payment against the practice.
A leader of one of the political parties said they had faced a tough 15 days ahead of the polling with almost each person he came across asking him how much the party would pay for their votes.
If people were angered over the ED search operations, it was because they thought they were being denied an opportunity to make some fast money. The searches by ED were made on reliable information and going by the findings in Vellore, it was right.
But the Opposition’s charge that it was being targeted looked justified since the AIADMK had its way in handing cash to voters in the constituencies that faced byelections to the Assembly.
The tenth factor was the UPA, particularly the Congress, manifesto promising a payment of Rs 6,000 a month to the poor. Tamil Nadu is a State where freebies decide the polls outcome starting from 2006 when the DMK promised to give television sets free to all if it came to power. Since then, the DMK and AIADMK have been trying to outwit one another with promises of freebies and the people have simply fallen for them. In Tamil Nadu, welfare programmes dole out cash to people starting from marriages to pregnancy to child birth till higher secondary school education.
The promise of Rs 6,000 in their bank accounts every month went well with the people in Tamil Nadu. In fact, the UPA, particularly the Congress, played up this assurance with the people in the state not realising that no one outside Tamil Nadu was buying it. The assurance lured even the people in western Tamil Nadu, where the people are yet to forget and forgive the power cut they had to experience during 2006-2011 DMK rule.
For now, Palaniswami may breathe easy as he could feel he may not face any problem until the Assembly elections are due in 2021. Two years is a long time in politics and much water could flow in the Cauvery by then.
Tamil actor Rajinikanth will likely launch his political party in January next year. The AIADMK and AMMK could come together. There are too many likely developments that could, perhaps, make the waiting even longer for DMK President M K Stalin and his partymen.