A Seshan

Learning from the last TN election

A. Seshan | Updated on March 29, 2011 Published on March 18, 2011

tamil nadu


The battle-lines are drawn for the coming Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu. Unfortunately for the electorate, it is a choice between the same pair of Dravidian parties, with little to choose between the two. It is a moot point whether the people will vote for the DMK alliance in a big way, given all the scandals associated with the Congress, its major alliance partner, and the general perception that, in the last five years, government in TN has been run like a family business.

It would be interesting to look at the results of the last Assembly election rather than the one relating to Parliament because the issues placed before the electorate are different in the two cases. The first obvious conclusion that emerges from the accompanying Table is the fragmentation of popular choice.

Higher vote-share

In terms of vote share, the winning combination of DMK and its allies secured 44.7 per cent of the votes, followed closely by the AIADMK group at 40.06 per cent.

However, AIADMK's own vote share at 32.64 per cent was larger than that of DMK at 26.45 per cent. No party or group got an absolute majority of the votes. In many constituencies the winning margin was too close for either party to feel good at having won.

The results on the number of seats won would have been different had there been a system of proportional representation. In that case DMK and AIADMK and their allies would have got 105 seats and 94 seats, respectively. The DMDK would have bagged 20 seats and could have become the king-maker! Its vote share was the same as that of the Congress. A few nondescript parties and individuals might have been winners for the remaining seats.

In a way it is good that we do not have proportional representation as it would only lead to more horse-trading and instability, already prevailing in the political system.

Second, the allies of the DMK seem to have been helpful as they were generally able to get 60-70 per cent of the seats contested. However, the relatively poorer performance of PMK is surprising, and indicative of its loosening hold on the Vanniyar belt. It did badly in the last Parliament election also, not winning a single seat.

On the other hand, the AIAMDK was definitely weakened by its allies. The MDMK, which was supposed to be popular in the southern districts and expected to augment the existing strength of the main party, won only in 17 per cent of the constituencies it contested.

One should remember that in the allotment of the seats both the main partner and the allies would have gone by their relative strengths based on the past election results.

The reason for the MDMK debacle is not far to seek. People in the State were just disgusted at its rank opportunism in its switching sides at the last moment just because DMK would not agree to its demand for an additional seat or two. Its vote share at 6 per cent was below what a new party, the DMDK, could obtain. The campaign conducted by MDMK's leader against the Karunanidhi family accusing it of amassing wealth through unethical means proved counterproductive.

The people of Tamil Nadu have suffered enough from the rule of the two regional parties during the last 40 years, except for the short period when Annadurai was the Chief Minister. A historic opportunity has been lost by the Congress to become the largest party in the Assembly after the election.

Rank opportunism

The others cannot point an accusing finger at it simply because it has not been in power in the State in recent years! And, unlike in Bihar, there is no Nitish Kumar in the State.

The Congress could have leveraged these favourable factors to its own advantage. Now it is going to score a self-goal because of the alliance. Every election sees a new generation of voters. The youngsters getting the franchise for the first time are enthusiastic about going to cast their ballot, unlike the elders. They are generally idealistic. The solo appearance of the Congress, as the third choice, would have split the votes of the DMK and AIADMK.

The votes against the last two would have gone to the Congress as the third choice.The electorate has a short memory. The chances are that there will be another minority government led by the AIADMK. It will be back to Square One for the people of Tamil Nadu.

(The author is an economic consultant. >blfeedback@thehindu.co.in)

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Published on March 18, 2011
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