Who will win Tamil Nadu Polls 2016?

Krishnaswamy (@kristanjore) & Politicalbaaba (@politicalbaaba)

Well, that’s a million dollar question. TN Elections 2016 has reached its climax stage with voting taking place tomorrow (16th May). We review the Tamil Nadu political Situation as of today.

History of Elections:

Seats of ADMK & DMK over the past few elections


From 1977-84 ADMK won three elections in a row, however since 1984, the state has overthrown incumbent governments and given chance to the other Dravidian major to rule the state. ADMK and DMK have ruled the state alternatively for the past 3 decades as shown below.

Vote Share of ADMK and DMK over the past few years


Vote share garnered by the two major parties show interesting trends. Since 1996 elections vote share of ADMK has witnessed an upward trend irrespective of the fact whether it won or lost elections from 21.5% in 1996 to 38.4% in 2011. On the other hand DMK’s vote share has seen a steady decline from 42.1% in 1996 to 22.4% in 2011. One of the reasons for this is that the number of seats contested by DMK has decreased over the years from 78% (182 / 234) in 1996 to 53% (124 / 234) in 2011 giving up more seats to accommodate allies.
Let see the election trends from 1991 onwards.

1991: ADMK-Cong in alliance won the polls. ADMK won on sympathy votes by publishing Amma’s picture in assembly where her saree was pulled down and Rajiv Gandhi assassination.

1996: Between 1991-96, land grabbing atrocities, blocking the road for hours together whenever JJ goes via road, Mahamaham temple tank bath episode where massive stampede happened and finally lavish money spent on her foster son marriage went against her on the back of which DMK won.

2001: Anti-incumbency against DMK due to not properly managing the economy and high inflation enabled JJ to make a comeback.

2006: JJ managed reasonably well from 2001-2006, but DMK was able to build a stronger alliance with Congress, PMK, Left parties on their side. Captain was spoiler for ADMK, as he took away sizeable chunk of neutral voters and ADMK’s votes. Karuna once again came back to power.

2011: Massive anti-incumbency against DMK and Congress central rule (corruption scandals) and poor handling of the power situation in the state, enabled JJ to make a comeback. This time she had a strong alliance with DMDK / Left parties on her side.

Elections 2016:

Unlike 2011, initially anti-incumbency against this govt. was not visible till Chennai Floods incident. ADMK govt. lethargic rescue efforts in Chennai Floods stirred up the anti-incumbency silently building up.

When the campaign started, Amma didn’t look like her previous self (impacted by her health rumours), she parroted same words, doled out freebies and her campaign is lackluster. No succession plan, alleged involvement in corruption case and sycophancy of her leaders has cast a negative impression on her campaign.

On the positives are some of her welfare schemes (Amma canteens / medicine shops etc), support from woman voters (who exceed male voters this time) and old age of her competitor Karunanidhi.

Will anti-incumbency defeat ADMK in line with trend?

DMK has not been able to form a formidable front to take on advantage of this silent brewing anti-incumbency. PMK and DMDK two formidable anti Dravidian parties having combined 13% vote share are contesting separately leading to split of anti-ADMK votes. It has Congress on its side which will help poll minority votes but Congress has more to gain from this alliance vis-à-vis DMK.

DMK chances are being impacted by:

1. PMK: PMK has a solid vote bank of 4% and they will hit DMK in North Tamil Nadu. PMK could also take some crucial 2% votes in and around Chennai, Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur District too.

2. DMDK-PWF-TMC alliance: DMDK is taking some anti-incumbency votes in North Central Tamil Nadu. PWF (Vaiko and other parties) taking anti-incumbency votes in Southern Tamil Nadu. TMC is expected to take around 1 to 2% votes in some of the Congress seats.

3. Naam Tamilar Party (NTK: Headed by Seeman): Naam Tamilar Seeman is hitting hard against DMK and Congress tending to take away 2 to 3% votes that could have otherwise gone to DMK.

4. BJP: BJP is strong in Western Tamil Nadu, that too particularly around Coimbatore Area, and in Southern Tamil Nadu around Nagercoil Region. Apart from that they had registered good votes in Hosur, Ramanathapuram area too in double digits in 2006/2011. Normally, BJP voters are more or less aligned with ADMK mindset. So increase in BJP Vote share might take some votes from ADMK. At the same time, like in 2014, BJP might take away neutral votes that could have gone to DMK due to anti-incumbency factor. So BJP getting more votes in Western region might affect DMK, whereas BJP getting votes in Towns and cities will affect ADMK too to an extent.

Leadership Tangle: Kalaignar vs Stalin CM Candidate in DMK

DMK Party Leader Kalaignar is CM Candidate. There are many youngsters and women voters who feel they could have thought of of supporting DMK, if Stalin is made as CM candidate. Even though Kalaignar (93) is still sharp with political acumen, the demographics of the state (60% population less than 35 years of age) does not help his candidature. So DMK might lose some neutral votes coming to them by projecting Kalaignar as CM Candidate. Stalin enjoys same popularity ratings as Karunanidhi and they combined have same ratings as JJ. This is one of the crucial factors which will have an impact on the outcome.

Trend of Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha Elections in the State

DMK won three elections in a row in Tamil Nadu (2004 LS, 2006 VS, 2009 LS). Can Amma continue this trend? She has won two elections in a row 2011 VS and 2014 LS? Can she make it three in a row like DMK? This trend favours ADMK. However, the bigger trend of alternative govt. in state elections hints that it is the chance of DMK to win this time.

Vote Share Analysis 2016

In elections since 1984, the period when trend of alternative governments started, DMK and ADMK have got similar average vote shares of c. 30%. In the three elections in this decade (2001-2011), ADMK average vote share is higher at 35% vs 27% for DMK. Both were able to come to power due to alliance vote bank and neutral voters shifting between these two parties. Alliance wise 45% votes should ensure victory as in 2006 for DMK+.

TN has a good proportion of 20-25% of neutral voters, who decide the fate of the election. Now with multiple 3rd fronts and their vote is not going en-block to either to DMK or ADMK, it all boils down to which way the neutral voters will shift.

In 2014 LS, ADMK got 45% and DMK around 28% votes. But this is not the correct starting point as JJ benefitted from being ahead of even Modi as best suited PM candidate in the state and got a push of 5%-7% votes compared to 2011 assembly polls because of this. Congress got c. 4% vote share.

So starting point for ADMK is 39% votes she got in 2011 polls. DMK starting point is 28% + 4 (2014 basis) or 23% + 9% (2011 basis) = 32%. So it is something like 39% vs 32% in favour of ADMK. Can DMK bridge this gap? As can be historically seen the state has witnessed massive swings in vote share of alliances compared to previous polls. This 7% gap is not difficult to bridge.

Alliance vote swings in recent years

Around 55-60 seats are very neck and neck which makes these elections evenly poised. ADMK ‘s strength is women voters and women voters are more this time than men voters. Stalin is gaining popularity on social media, urban seats traditionally strong point of DMK.

Opinion Polls add to the confusion

4 / 7 polls predict higher vote share for DMK. The only national level polling agency predicts ADMK to win. One more released today which says ADMK sweep. Pollsters are as confused. Vote Share in


Chart courtesy @chinmaykrvd


ADMK had the advantage before the polls announced, since then DMK has made up for some lost ground. Whether it will be a landslide, or simple majority or a loss for ADMK in line with trend will be known only on May 19th. Results also depend on how well the street campaign of BJP, PWF, PMK is going to sway the voters and who they dent more. It’s a battle boiled down to each seat and results will teach a few new lessons to all pollsters. Till then enjoy!

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