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Tamil Nadu May Prove to be Face-saver for UPA as Pollsters Predict Congress-DMK Victory

Tamil Nadu, which accounts for the maximum number of Lok Sabha seats in south India at 39, went to polls this time bereft of its two tallest leaders, M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa.


Updated:May 20, 2019, 7:21 PM IST
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Tamil Nadu May Prove to be Face-saver for UPA as Pollsters Predict Congress-DMK Victory
File photo of Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) President MK Stalin . (Image: PTI)

New Delhi: Poll surveys predict a big dent in the AIADMK seat share in Tamil Nadu with the DMK-Congress expected to win 22-24 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats. According to News18's IPSOS exit poll, the AIADMK alliance, which includes the BJP, may win 14-16 seats. The ruling-AIADMK, which won 37 seats last time, may end up with only 8-10 seats this time. The BJP and the Congress are likely to win 1-2 and 3-5 seats, respectively.

Tamil Nadu, which accounts for the maximum number of Lok Sabha seats in south India at 39, went to polls this time bereft of its two tallest leaders, M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa. The results on May 23 would be a reflection on who the electorate views as a viable alternative.

As per the India Today Axis exit poll, DMK-Congress is set for a thumping victory with 34-38 seats and AIADMK-BJP alliance is estimated to win a maximum of four seats. The Chanakya-News24 exit poll has predicted BJP alliance to win 6 seats, Congress alliance 31 seats and others are pegged at one seat. As per Republic C Voter survey, UPA is set to win 27 seats, followed by NDA with 11 seats.

The events of the last two years, the split within the AIADMK, the tumultuous revamp of the Edappadi Palaniswamy government with O Panneerselvam as his deputy and the eventual alliance with the BJP – have led to quite a bit of negative sentiment towards the ruling party. The AIADMK was looking to tame this wave of anti-incumbency with its rainbow alliance of seven parties. It has tried to consolidate its caste base in every district by tying up with parties such as the Vaniyar community-led Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK).

Typically, Tamil Nadu has always known to vote as a bloc. In the 2014 elections, the AIADMK swept the Lok Sabha elections, winning 37 of the 39 seats. In 2014, the AIADMK was in the opposition as the BJP had a brute majority to form a government at the Centre.

With pollsters ruling out absolute majority for any party, both the AIADMK and the DMK are hoping to play kingmakers for the BJP and the Congress, respectively, and hold a position of influence in such a ruling coalition.

This time, there are 38 seats in contention in Tamil Nadu since polling in Vellore constituency was cancelled due to voter bribery.

Dhinakaran Factory

After his aunt and Jayalalithaa’s confidante Sasikala's incarceration for corruption, TTV Dhinakaran rebelled against the EPS-OPS leadership and became a leader in his own right when he won the by-election to Jayalalithaa's assembly constituency in December 2017. With the win, his supporters boasted that Dhinakaran had established himself as the true heir to Amma’s legacy.

Launching his own party, Dhinakaran has more or less echoed the DMK’s campaign pitch against “fascist BJP and slavish AIADMK”.

Stalin’s Strategy

The DMK, too, has attached itself to a national party -- the Congress -- with a pre-poll alliance. It was DMK chief MK Stalin who first endorsed Congress chief Rahul Gandhi as prime ministerial candidate. But to this day, he’s the only one to have done so among all regional parties.

Tamil Nadu BJP chief Tamilisai Soundararajan gave rise to fresh speculation on May 14 when she told mediapersons cryptically that the DMK has “Congress on one side, and Modi on the other”. Though the DMK was quick to hit back saying it never wavered in its support to the Congress, the Tamil Nadu BJP succeeded in sowing dangerous doubts.

The DMK was forced to issue repeated denials and reiterate multiple times that it had no understanding with the BJP. MK Stalin even dared the BJP to prove its claims, saying he would quit politics if the saffron party succeeded in doing so.

The DMK also made its allegiance to the Congress clear during Stalin’s meeting with Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao on May 13. While KCR pitched for a federal front, Stalin reportedly asked him to back the Congress-led alliance. Sources said the DMK persuaded KCR to consider joining a Congress-led front to fight against the BJP, and that KCR did not reject the idea entirely.

Tamil Nadu has always given a decisive mandate to one of the Dravidian parties. But 2019 has seen entrants like Dhinakaran and actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan. While Dhinakaran is likely to eat into the AIADMK votes, the composition of Kamal Haasan’s vote bank remains to be seen.

Bypoll Battle

While Tamil Nadu’s importance for national elections cannot be overstated, focus is also on the 22 assembly bypolls, the results of which can lead to a regime change in the state.

If the DMK wins 21 of these assembly seats, it can stake claim to form the state government. The AIADMK, which still doesn’t have majority in the Assembly, has to win at least five of the 22 seats to remain in power. Ideally, the EPS-OPS government must win at least 10 seats to last comfortably till 2021.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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