Weakening the opposition front in Tamil Nadu, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) split away from the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the upcoming rural local body elections.
This sudden decision by PMK came in a virtual meeting of its party functionaries, held late on September 14, after the announcement for the elections were made just a day before. Although there were already some clear indicators of this drift, it is a shock for the AIADMK which gave enough considerations to its ally PMK.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was already chaotic with its largest party AIADMK struggling with a long-drawn leadership crisis. The party is unable to pull its strings together to lead an alliance or play the role of the principal opposition in the state.
Given that the upright BJP also stands exposed to its inner-party friction following the controversial sex chat video of its general secretary, the NDA is entering the upcoming elections on a backfoot.
In the recently concluded 22-day budget session in Tamil Nadu, the opposition put up a poor show leaving the DMK-government unchallenged. The NDA was almost invisible on the floor, with the three parties functioning independently without coordination.
Of the many walkouts opposing the ruling party’s proposals, only one involved all the three NDA parties. The three parties offered a joint front in very few matters.
The AIADMK members staged walkouts on issues particularly concerning their party, such as the merger of Jayalalitha University and the Kodanad heist-cum-murder case. The BJP walked out of moves against the union government, such as the resolution opposing CAA, bill scrapping NEET and the resolution against the farm laws. The AIADMK joined the walkout on farm law resolution, though it supported the move to dispense NEET.
Except for the first walkout, the PMK remained seated on the floor and supported most of the bills and resolutions.
JILTED BY PMK?
PMK’s sudden decision to contest the upcoming local body elections alone should not come as a major surprise given the party’s history of ruthless seat-share bargains. The party is known for fixing deals with the likely winning front, and ideology and common demands were always secondary concerns.
This decision also seems like PMK once again making maximum profits out of its electoral alliance and moving on.
The son of the party’s founder and its youth wing leader Anbumani Ramadoss won the MP seat from Dharmapuri constituency in 2014 as part of the NDA. PMK contested 23 seats in the 2021 assembly elections, winning five of them and making a comeback in the assembly after half a decade. The party likely has nothing more to gain from the NDA.
The party, however, has its justification for stepping out of the alliance. Speaking to NewsClick, deputy general secretary of the party Bhaskaran said, “Local body elections usually leave us with bitter experiences. Parties like AIADMK and DMK showcase a big brother attitude, and seat-sharing would not be convincing, we would get peanuts. Whichever seats PMK has a chance of winning, even those would be usurped by the AIADMK.”
He further said, “PMK is known for making smart electoral decisions, this is also one of them."
Although, he reiterated “we are still part of the alliance and have not drifted away”.
LOCAL BODY POLLS
Out of the nine districts that are awaiting rural local body elections in October, six are in north Tamil Nadu, the region where the PMK has a stronghold. These six districts are Kanchipuram, Chengalpattu, Villupuram, Kallakurichi, Vellore and Ranipet.
PMK is hoping to extract the maximum possible returns from these strongholds.
Moreover, the DMK has made some favourable moves towards the PMK.
In July 2021, a government order was passed to implement a 10.5% reservation for the Vanniyar community. Although it was introduced by the previous AIADMK regime earlier this February to appease the Vanniyar majority PMK. The DMK also passed a motion to erect a memorial in honour of the 21 people who died from police firing during the 1987 Vanniyar agitations. Both moves were received warmly by the PMK leadership.
The PMK contesting alone means a split in the vote share. In the present scenario, this could prove to be a boost for the DMK, as, unlike AIADMK, it has a stronger base in the northern districts.