Tamil Nadu: Opposition Parties in a Fix, In-Fighting Resurfaces in AIADMK
Many predicted that if the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) loses the 2021 Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, it would be a death blow for the party. That assumption appears to have been proven wrong; though the party is struggling to pull itself together, it still remains in one piece.
The problems and challenges for the party are aplenty. Its immediate challenge is to prove that it can be an effective Opposition in the state. Keeping its flock together and ensuring that the inner-party discrepancies are not leaked in public is also a major task for the AIADMK.
The post-election scenario for most other political parties in the opposition is also not good.
Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Neethi Maiam (MNM) is facing a dire crisis. Immediately after the election results were declared, many of its important personalities resigned from the party.
There is no noise from Vijayakanth’s Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), which was the main opposition party just a decade ago. It has been almost washed out of existence.
On the other hand, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) is accused of not winning enough seats for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and is trying hard to defend itself.
SUPPORT RISES FOR EPS, OPS DISAPPOINTED
The AIADMK on May 10 chose former chief minister and party co-coordinator Edappadi K Palaniswami as THE Leader of the Opposition in the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly. The decision came after major inner-party dispute.
Party coordinator O Panneerselvam resisted the move. But with little support from the newly elected MLAs, he had to give in.
The argument in favour of Palaniswami was that the party performed well in his region, western Tamil Nadu. The party fared poorly in other parts, and Palaniswami’s policies as the Chief Minister are blamed for it.
For instance, the 10.5% reservation announced for the OBC Vanniyar community, under pressure from ally PMK - a party with a strong base among Vanniyars - antagonised other OBC communities, especially the Thevars.
Over the past four years, the AIADMK has managed a joint leadership -- Palaniswami representing the western region and the Gounder communities, and Panneerselvam representing the south and the Thevars. But it remains to be seen whether the party will be able continue with the current arrangement
WHAT FUTURE HOLDS
By leading a front that bagged nearly 40% of the votes polled, the AIADMK has shown that it was no spent force.
The BJP played the big brother to keep the OPS and EPS factions together. The AIADMK had a number of ministers in the Parliament, the support of which BJP needed then. But now, a fractured AIADMK could be more favourable for the BJP.
AIADMK’s electoral setback could throw open the gates for deserters to flee to greener pastures and safer places, and it is understood that the BJP would be a willing host.
Though the AIADMK is no longer in power, there are concerns over why its need to stick together. The party is expected to perform as a strong opposition, which is necessary to keep democracy in check, and it can prevent the opposition space being occupied by more divisive forces.
PMK ON THE DEFENSE
AIADMK leaders feel that the PMK did not do justice to the 10.5% reservation for Vanniyars. The NDA hoped that PMK vote share would help the alliance win more seats in northern districts. But the situation turned the other way round--PMK won seats because of the alliance.
PMK won five seats and lost in five seats by narrow margins. The party’s defense for the reduced vote share is that it contested in fewer seats than the previous elections.
Prof Ramu Manivannan, Politics and Public Administration, University of Madras, said, “PMK has lost its traditional vote base in the last 10 years because they consistently compromised on their political and ideological commitment for personal nepotism and family interests.”
AMMK THE SPOILSPORT
TTV Dhinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) may have scored just 2.35% vote share, but the split group spoiled the chances for AIADMK in over 20 constituencies.
AIADMK could not garner its traditional mass of Thevar votes in the southern districts, the community to which Dhinakaran belongs. It is particularly a big blow to Panneerselvam, whose bargaining power within the party has lowered. The AIADMK won 32 of the 54 seats in the west but only 16 of the 60 seats in the south.
Upset over the poor performance of the AMMK, the party functionaries have allegedly started reaching out to their friends in the AIADMK and getting closer to the newly-elected Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MLAs.
POSSIBLE NAIL IN THE COFFIN FOR DMDK
Actor-turned politician Vijayakanth’s DMDK seems to have lost its political relevance in Tamil Nadu. The party lost its deposit in all the 60 seats it contested in the Assembly elections as part of the alliance with AMMK. It was once a sought-after party in Tamil Nadu.
Its overall vote share is 0.43% and making it proportionate to the number of seats it contested, the vote share stands at 1.68%, which is still lower than the shares of NTK, AMMK and MNM. In 2006, DMDK garnered 8.4% of votes.
Naam Tamilar Katchi is probably the only party in opposition that made gains in the 2021 Assembly elections. It contested in all 234 constituencies and came third in many of them. NTK’s political relevance seems unclear; Prof Manivannan’s asks, “Do they (NTK) want to be the vote cutters on behalf of someone else, or do they want to be a genuine alternative?”
REVOLT FROM WITHIN IN MNM
After the electoral debacle, actor-turned politician Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) is facing a big jolt as many of its important members have tendered their resignations just days before it was hailed as a probable third front.
The party’s vice-president R Mahendran submitted his resignation just days after election results. He said that poor decisions had led to the party’s dismal performance in the polls. He also claimed that Haasan’s style of running a political party is not democratic.
Senior leader and former IAS officer Santhosh Babu also called it quits from the MNM, citing personal reasons.
Similarly, Padma Priya, the party's candidate from Maduravoyal, also announced her exit from the party.
In the polls, MNM failed to win a single seat and garnered 2.5% votes, which is lower than their performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls where they received 3.7% votes.
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