On April 18, nearly six crore voters will decide the fate of candidates in 39 Lok Sabha constituencies in Tamil Nadu. As a stronghold of regional politics and unpredictable political atmosphere, the state has always been in the spotlight during elections. Apart from BJP, Congress and the Left, politics in the state is divided between the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam). Both parties bank on Dravidian politics and regional interests rather than nationwide trends.
However, the upcoming Lok Sabha polls are indicating a different trend, since the main opposition, DMK has openly declared their intention to join hands with the other opposition parties to dethrone BJP and their communal and divisive policies.
Major Candidates and Alliances
The secular progressive alliance (SPA), led by DMK is composed of 9 parties. Their seat distribution is as follows:
Indian National Congress (INC)- 10
Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK)- 1
Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK)- 2
Communist Party of India (CPI)- 2
Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI(M)- 2
Indian Union Muslim League (IUML)- 1
Kongunadu Makkal Desia Katchi (KMDK)- 1
Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi (IJK)- 1
SPA is a couple of steps ahead of their opponents by declaring candidates in majority of seats and has also released the manifesto.
As this is the first major election they are facing after the demise of DMK supremo M Karunanidhi, these elections are crucial for the new chief Stalin and the party, alike. The party has also taken to it seriously by putting up star candidates in the major seats.
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Meanwhile, the AIADMK-led alliance has also declared their seat distribution and candidates. The seat distribution is given below:
Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK)- 7
Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK)- 4
Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC)- 1
Puthiya Tamizhagam (PT)- 1
Puthiya Needhi Katchi (PNK)- 1
NR Congress- 1
Small players, Big moves
Apart from DMK, INC, CPI and CPI(M), there are five smaller parties in SPA. MDMK is formed by Vaiko, who once was a DMK member and was perceived as a threat to Stalin. His party had allied with both UPA and NDA in previous elections. Vaiko’s stand with the Tamils in Sri Lanka is widely noted and he is known for inciting Tamil sentiments in many issues. Vaiko cited the NDA’S alleged negligence towards Tamil community as the reason for snapping ties with them in 2014.
VCK-led by Thirumavalavan focuses on the emancipation of Tamil people from caste and class differences. They also ardently support the Tamil Eelam movement which focuses on war crimes against Sri Lankan Tamils. VCK and PMK (part of AIADMK alliance) are known rivals. PMK enjoys support from the Vanniyar community and have been in the limelight for their anti-dalit position. The party have fielded former Union Minister and sitting MP Anbumani Ramadoss in Dharmapuri, where tension between dalits and Vanniyars are not new.
KMDK enjoys support from the Kongunadu area in the state and mainly focuses on the rights of indigenous.
In addition to these two alliances, TTV Dinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) and Kamal Hasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiyam (MNM) are also contesting from every seat. SPA is also expecting a divide in AIADMK vote bank through AMMK. Dinakaran is said to have the support local leaders from AIADMK.
Issues and Promises
One of the major crises facing the state now is the agrarian crisis. The central’s negligence towards Tamil farmers is a major component in the opposition’s campaign. In recent years, there have been different kinds of protest from Tamil farmers in the national capital. The images of naked farmers with skulls of their fellow farmers hanging on their necks is not one that they can escape from soon.
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DMK’s manifesto promises to fight for returning to the old pension scheme and a separate budget for agriculture among other things. The new pension scheme had been a major reason behind the strikes of government staff and teachers in the state. The strike affected the functioning of state to a great extent and it was with great difficulty that the state reached a compromise with the protesters.
The AIADMK manifesto promises ‘Amma Poverty Eradication Scheme’ which would grant ₹1,500 per month for BPL families. They have also promised exemption to Tamil Nadu from NEET, which is a major concern among students and parents.
The interesting alliance equations in the state show enemies becoming allies and the reverse. In the previous election, AIADMK had fielded contestants in all 39 seats. CPI and CPI(M) formed their own alliance while DMK had grouped with VCK, MMK, IUML and Puthiya Tamizhagam.
In the previous elections, BJP, hoping to sweep the state in the Modi wave formed an alliance with a larger group consisting MDMK, PMK, DMDK, IJK, KMDK. AIADMK swept the polls with 37 seats, BJP and PMK each got one seat. While both DMK and AIADMK are contesting in 20 seats this time, they are directly facing each other in only 8 seats. This has been taken as sign of lack of confidence from both parties.
Whatever the outcome of this election, it is sure that the void made by the demise of Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi will be reflected. The leaderships of both parties have to prove their mettle to the followers while BJP and INC are in for the much-needed southern support.
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