The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) is set to face its first Assembly election without its stalwart, M Karunanidhi. The party had won a massive mandate in the 2019 Parliament general elections, the first under the leadership of M K Stalin.
The party also had a chance to replace the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) had it performed similarly in the by-elections to the 22 Assembly segments, however, the case was not to be.
The oldest dravidian party, sitting in the Opposition for a decade now, has been working hard to regain power. By implementing 69% reservation, a major success of the social justice movement and the thrust given in implementing welfare measures, it has had a long lasting impact in the state. However, an inconsistent vote share is a cause of concern for the party, though a strong alliance and the anti incumbency factor against the AIADMK- BJP alliance could turn the tide in favour of the DMK.
STORMING TO POWER IN 1967
The DMK, founded in 1949 first captured power in 1967, bringing to end the rule of the Congress party. It came into existence after breaking away from the ‘Periyar’ E V Ramasamy-led Dravidar Kazhagam (DK). Many leaders of the party contested as independents and 13 of them made it to the Assembly. The state then had 167 constituencies and 205 members, with 37 dual member constituencies.
The party contested on its own symbol in 1962 and won 50 seats (of the total 206 seats), becoming the Opposition. The 1967 election saw DMK forming the government with a whopping 137 seats of the 234 constituencies, with its founder C N Annadurai becoming the Chief Minister.
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The following election in 1971 saw the party returning to power with a thumping majority of 184 seats, the highest for any party in electoral history of the state. After the formation of All India Annatra Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the DMK had a tough time in the elections. The party’s tally fell below 50 seats in the next three elections, held in 1977, 1980 and 1984.
Image Courtesy: Prakash R
Even though it made a comeback to power in 1989, it was dismissed for the second time after 1976. After winning the election in 1996 with another thumping margin, the party could come back to power in 2006, with only 96 seats, with the support of Congress.
UNSTABLE VOTE SHARE POST 1977
The vote share of the party has been inconsistent since 1977. The highest vote share the party could manage was 42.07% in 1996, when the anger against AIADMK was running high. The vote share plummeted to 22.39% in 2011, lower than its 1991 share of 22.46%, which was held following the assassination of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
As a cadre-based party, when compared to that of the AIADMK, the DMK has managed to retain its base, but not the vote share. Though the share of votes increased in 2016, the highest since 2001 elections, the party fell well short of AIADMK’s tally.
Image Courtesy: Prakash R
The party even lost the status of Opposition in 2011, when the Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) led by actor Vijayakanth Desiya, in alliance with AIADMK took its place. It faced a similar situation in 1984 and 1991 as well.
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The fluctuating vote share of the party, though justified with the relevant political developments during the elections still remains a concern. But, the present alliance with the Congress, left parties, Vaiko led Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and the Thol Thirumavalavan led Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), is a strong point for DMK.
The party is hoping to repeat its 2019 general election performance in the upcoming Assembly elections. It also has the task of keeping the allies together, with reasonable share of seats to the parties.
WILL ALLIANCE ARITHMETIC SAVE DMK?
The DMK patriarch, late Karunanidhi was known to accommodate parties to its fold in tightly contested elections. The 2006 results are a classic example of the alliance arithmetic helping the party to form the government, when it fell well short of majority.
The party won 96 seats, while 118 is the number required for simple majority. The party formed the government with the support of the Congress which had 34 members. This is the only instance in the history of the state, since 1957 when a party did not manage a majority on its own.
The sweeping victories in the 2004 and 2019 general election when the DMK led alliance won 39 and 38 seats, respectively, was also attributed to the strength of the allies, coupled with anti-incumbency factors.
M K Stalin received praise for the distribution of seats to the Secular Progressive Alliance in the 2019 elections. Repeating such a seat sharing formula could be tough, with reports about DMK intending to fight more seats emerging. The alliance parties have also clarified of not compromising on their claims based on the general election performances.
The real test on such arrangements will test the leadership skills of Stalin and other second rung leaders, who enjoy considerable influence in the decision making process.
‘NEPOTISM’ A SETBACK?
The major allegation against the DMK is the influence of few families wielding influence in the party ranks. It has had only two presidents, M Karunanidhi and M K Stalin, with the former occupying the post from 1969 to 2018 and succeeded by the later. Before 1969, the party did not have the president’s post, while it was led by the general secretary.
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The elevation of Udhayanidhi Stalin as the secretary of DMK youth wing has also received widespread criticism. The fast paced elevation of the Udhayanidhi, an actor and producer in the Tamil film industry shocked many, including the party veterans and cadres. However, he has managed to make a name for himself with his activities and ability to connect with the masses.
The Maran family also wields considerable influence among the party. The former minister ‘Murasoli’ Maran, the nephew of Karunanidhi was a highly influential in the party and his son Dhayanidhi Maran, succeeded him to the Lok Sabha and the union ministry twice. The nepotism is rampant among the second rung leadership as well, with senior leaders have managing to win seats for their heirs as members of the Assembly and Parliament along with party positions.
‘PEOPLE’S SABHA’ CAMPAIGN GETS MASSIVE RESPONSE
DMK kickstarted the election campaign well in advance and continues to hold village level meetings to highlight the plight of the citizens. Stalin is now visiting almost every Assembly segment in the state to meet people and listen to their grievances. The considerable participation in all such meetings is seen as an encouraging sign for the DMK.
The manifesto committee formed by the party is also touring different parts of the state to ensure accommodating demands from different parts of the state.
The discontent among the farmers, government employees, youth seeking employment, rampant corruption charges, fear of Hindi imposition and increase price of petroleum products are expected to play in favour of the DMK.
It also seems to have an edge over the AIADMK-BJP alliance, but Stalin and DMK will have to ensure the consolidation of such support if they want to regain power after a decade.
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