Tamil Nadu: Can Amma overturn the trend?

Tamil Nadu goes to polls in April – May of this year along with Assam, West Bengal and Kerala. Politicalbaaba (PB) will cover the elections in detail with analytical insightful reports and feedback from the ground.


Tamil Nadu like Kerala has witnessed a trend since the past three decades (1984) of voting out the incumbent government. The politics of Tamil Nadu has revolved around the two Dravidian parties – DMK and AIADMK. AIADMK and DMK have taken turns alternatively to rule the government for every five years.

Other parties in the state: national – BJP, Congress & Left and state DMDK, PMK & MDMK have allied with the either of these two parties to fight polls in earlier elections.

The biggest question this time is: Will the trend continue and DMK come back to power? Initial reports suggest that trend might be broken and Amma may be able to retain her CM chair. However, this also depends upon how the alliances shape up. Captain Vijaykanth has kept everyone guessing and finally made a decision to go alone.

Six cornered contest

  1. AIADMK with Vasan’s Tamil Manila Congress – strong presence among upper castes, Edayars, SCs
  2. DMK with Congress – strong foothold among Vanniyars and minorities (Muslims & Christians)
  3. Left with MDMK (Vaiko) and VCK – strong presence among Dalits, Telugu Naickers, SCs/STs
  4. BJP – strong presence in Kanyakumari
  5. DMDK (Vijaykanth) – strong presence in Kongu belt and Naidu community
  6. PMK (Ramadoss) – strong support among Vanniyars

Will this help AIADMK as the anti-Jaya votes get split?

Demographics of the state

  1. Tamil Nadu has 234 assembly seats – 188 general category and 46 reserved for SC/ST.
  2. 52% of the population lives in rural areas which is much lower than national average of 69%.
  3. Hindus account for 88% of state population, Muslims 5.5% and Christians 6%. SC/ST account for 21% of the population.
  4. Minorities and Vanniyars have traditionally backed Karunaniidhi’s DMK.
  5. State has a high literacy rate (80.3% vs national average of 74%) and people below poverty line are only 11.3% vs national average of 22%.

2011 State Elections

The main contest as always was between the two grand alliances led by Dravidian parties. Left front which was part of DMK led alliance in 2006 shifted sides to AIADMK, while VCK which was with Jayalalitha in 2006 shifted sides to Karunanidhi. DMDK which fought 2006 polls alone without winning a single seat but garnering 8%+ vote share joined AIADMK led alliance.

In 2011, in line with the trend, the alliance led by AIADMK / Jayalalitha comprising of DMDK, Left Front, PT and MMK won 203 / 234 seats bagging 51.8% vote share. AIADMK won 150 (38.4%) and DMDK won 29 seats (7.9%).

Within months relations between DMDK and AIADMK soured and Vijaykanth left the alliance to become Leader of Opposition. Jaya didn’t need him as she had ample majority along with Left parties. This situation was similar to West Bengal wherein Mamata defeated Left in alliance with Congress and later dumped it when she got absolute majority on its own.

DMK led alliance consisting of Congress and PMK won 31 seats only bagging 39.4% vote share. DMK received a drubbing similar to Congress in LS 2014, couldn’t even get the LOP status. In one-third of the total number of districts DMK alliance drew a blank. In urban seats considered as DMK strongholds, alliance tally came down from 28 seats in 2006 to 3 in 2011.

Though DMK led alliance lost vote share amongst all classes, the highest losses were recorded amongst poor class (from 47% to 33%). Amongst caste, AIADMK alliance gained across communities, highest being Mudallars (+23%) and STs (+31%). DMK lost vote share across caste groups except for Thevars, Vanniyars, Mulims and SCs.

Surprisingly 66% of the population was satisfied with DMK govt. performance still DMK lost badly. The reasons were many:

  1. Jayalalitha led the popularity ratings by 12% (47% vs 35% of Karunanidhi).
  2. While people felt condition of roads, drinking water supply, quality of education and medical facilities improved during DMK tenure vs AIADMK tenure, more than half respondents were not happy with the electricity supply. This also contributed to the loss as 17% listed it as one the main issues of the elections.
  3. Finally the corruption scams of UPA II – 2G scam also dented Karunanidhi popularity (38%).

Ultimately deft alliances formed by Jayalalitha, corruption scams of DMK ministers in UPA II and trend led to the defeat of DMK.

Seats of Major Parties in Last 5 Elections

tamil nadu

Vote Share of Last 5 Elections of Various Parties

tamil nadu1

2014 Lok Sabha Polls

In Lok Sabha despite Modi wave Amma held onto her fort bagging 37/39 seats and recording vote share of 44.9% (+6.5% compared to assembly polls). DMK drew a blank though it gained 1.5% vote share. BJP and PMK one seat each. BJP formed a grand alliance with DMDK, PMK and MDMK. All of them have now left NDA. AIADMK was leading in 217 / 234 seats.

Jayalalitha was the most preferred PM candidate slightly ahead of Modi. The anger of the people against the UPA government of which DMK was a part of for 10 years and the visible infighting amongst the first family led to DMK’s resounding defeat.

So who will win in 2016?

This is the elections which among the four states which are going to polls is the most difficult to predict. On one side is the trend. People have for the past three decades voted out the incumbent govt. in Tamil Nadu. On the other side is no significant anti-incumbency visible on the ground. Jayalalitha’s conviction in disproportionate assets case and poor handling of the Chennai floods situation could harm her prospects.

Opinion polls show AIADMK ahead marginally. Her Amma canteen and other schemes have been a hit, but trend may over-weigh on her prospects. Split of anti-AIADMK votes may help her though. All in all a riveting contest…

DMK won in 2006 vidhan sabha and 2009 lok sabha but lost in 2014. AIADMK won in 2011 and 2014, will it lose in 2016? Allies left DMK in 2011 and contributed to its defeat. In a similar fashion prominent allies of Jayalalitha have left the alliance. Is all this indicating towards repetition of the trend? Only time will tell…





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