New Delhi: As all 39 seats in Tamil Nadu go to polls today, the election is largely a contest between the AIADMK and the DMK, with the BJP backing the former and the Congress lending support to the DMK. Both the regional parties are contesting in 20 seats, the Congress in nine and the BJP in five.
The CPI, CPI(M) and IUML are also part of the larger UPA alliance for Tamil Nadu, while the PMK and DMDK are part of the NDA alliance.
The other prominent parties that are contesting in Tamil Nadu are AIADMK rebel TTV Dinakaran’s newly formed Amma Makkal Muneetra Kazhagam (AMMK) and Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM). Both the parties are contesting in 37 seats.
Some of the major issues facing the voters are farm distress, scarcity of water — both for drinking purposes and irrigation — and resentment over the killing of 13 people who were protesting for the closure of Vedanta’s copper plant citing health and environmental concerns.
The Tamil Nadu polls are also a crucial test for the local leadership. DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s son MK Stalin, who succeeded him as the party president, Edapadi Palaniswami, the current chief minister and deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam are all facing the heat of electoral mandate.
Voting Pattern in Tamil Nadu
Almost all major opinion polls, including the recent CSDS survey, predict a win for the DMK-Congress-Communist plus alliance. But an interesting point to look out for is whether the win would be a landslide victory, considering that the ‘landslide phenomenon’ — where one party or coalition wins a huge chunk of the total number of seats — has a strong precedent in Tamil Nadu.
In the 12 elections held since 1971, the winning party or coalition has held at least 36 of the 39 seats eight times. Effectively, 92 per cent of the seats have been held by the winning party or coalition in eight of 12 Lok Sabha elections since 1971.
The reason for such landslides could possibly be the first-past-the-post system where the candidate with the highest number of votes in a constituency is declared the winner. In effect, the system provides for a ‘winner takes all’ model where a candidate could lose despite securing almost half the popular vote.
In the eight instances mentioned above, the average vote share of the winner hovered around 55 per cent. In 2014 too, the NDA won 336 seats by securing only about 39 per cent of the vote share.
The other reason for landslides could be a fragmented Opposition.
Issues Plaguing Electoral Politics in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu has also been in the news for two other reasons— the postponement of polling in the Vellore constituency amid concerns about the use of money to influence voters and the raid carried out at the residence of DMK candidate and Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi in Thoothukudi by the Income Tax Department.
The decision to cancel the current scheduling in Vellore is based on a search and seizure operation carried out on March 29 and 30 at the residence of Durai Murugan, MLA and treasurer of DMK, and Kathir Anand, DMK’s contesting candidate in Vellore. On further probe, a total of Rs 11.48 crore in cash, “most of which was packed in plastic packets with ward wise details”, was unearthed.
The Special Expenditure Observer then filed a report stating that a scheme to influence voters through inducements is underway and such activities come under the ambit of “corrupt practices”. In conclusion, the Observer noted that “the situation is not conducive for the conduct of free and fair elections”.
Voting Pattern in Neighbouring Puducherry
The one seat in Puducherry is also going to polls today. The DMK-Congress, BJP-AIADMK alliance also holds for the state of Puducherry.
Historically, the Union Territory has been a Congress bastion. Since 1967, the Congress has won eight of the 13 elections. Currently too, the ruling government is formed by the All India N.R. Congress (AINRC) that is a faction of the Congress. The current MP is AINRC’s R Radhakrishnan.
For the 2019 elections, the AINRC has fielded Dr Narayanasamy Kesavan. The Congress, the MNM and the CPI(M) have also fielded their respective candidates in the state.