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Elections 2014: litmus test for Dravidian duopoly

Published Apr 22, 2014, 6:14 am IST
Updated Apr 7, 2019, 4:43 pm IST
Dravidian duopoly will be facing one of its first major tests this week
DMK chief M Karunanidhi and AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa (Photo - PTI/File)
 DMK chief M Karunanidhi and AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa (Photo - PTI/File)

Chennnai: The Dravidian duopoly will be facing one of its first major tests this week. People have been in such a comfort zone for decades that change could be a gut wrenching experience in the land of the Tamils.

The Dravidian movement, in its time a major political phenomenon even though it germinated as an offshoot of the Justice Party, has ruled the roost for 47 years even as AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa and her bête noir, DMK’s M. Karunanidhi have alternated as CMs for the last 23 years.


There may not be a wave for change at the moment certainly none is noticeable in the noisy run-up to the national polls although the signs are the duopoly will sport a few cracks with the third force in the state making a minor impact. That force may once again only be in the form of regional kazhagams the PMK, the DMDK and the MDMK that will be breaching the stranglehold of the Dravidian majors in alliance with a national party in BJP.

Ironically, it would surprise everyone if the national party that originally ruled the state wins so much as one seat of 39 plus the one in Puducherry. Congress has been reduced to such a state after having missed the Tamil pulse altogether in the vexing TN fishermen’s issue and the larger question of Sri Lankan Tamils rights. A Congress insider is convinced his party should not align with either of the Dravidian parties for at least three elections in which it should plough a lonely furrow with the hand symbol. Such thinking could change rapidly, or at least in 2016 when it will be time for the assembly elections.


The PMK may be rabidly caste-based, but it appears confident of winning 2-3 seats while the MDMK banks on Vaiko for winning one seat even as the BJP looks at 1-2 seats to begin a new account in the state. A total of five in 40 is only a dent; nevertheless it would be symbolic of the change that an emerging generation of voters is talking about.

The youth factor in first time voters is also considerable in numbers, although such numbers will probably split evenly among the four fronts that we are talking about in these elections.

It is the consolidation of Muslim votes and the parlous state of what was once a stable relationship between the two top leaders of AIADMK and BJP that is emblematic of the new political equations in the state. With a percentage thought to be as high as 14, Muslims now form a considerable chunk that can swing elections even in the face of any other wave like that of Narendra Modi being talked about, but least noticeable in most parts of Tamil Nadu save in the westernmost district with its pronounced tilt to the right of centre in the aftermath of the state’s first and worst act of terror in the Coimbatore bomb blasts of 1998.


While the early signs going into these polls when the announcement came in the beginning of February were heavily in favour of Ms J. Jayalalithaa, the equations changed a bit in the course of the campaign, particularly after she took swipes at BJP first and Modi and Gujarat afterwards.

She is still the most charismatic of Tamil Nadu leaders against whom anti-incumbency is not going to be a major factor except in the power situation outside the capital.

Chennai enjoyed most of her welfare schemes including the highly rated Amma Unavagam and the fair price vegetable shops, not to speak of domestic power being virtually uninterrupted in the run-up to the polls.


In 2009, AIADMK had broken its 2004 duck with an impressive performance that fetched it 13 against the 27 that went to the ruling party DMK-led alliance then. The figures being talked about now are a reverse of what happened last time out with a predicted 27-13 or so in favour of the ruling party.

That would allow Jayalalithaa to play a major role in national government formation, which would be her biggest political gain after being isolated in Tamil Nadu against national forces such as the Congress and BJP that denied Cauvery water in defiance of the conventions of sharing nature’s bounty.


Regardless of the nitty-gritty of the election campaign, results may be such Jayalalithaa will still be a national player to be reckoned with after these polls.

Location: Tamil Nadu