Tamil Nadu Assembly polls: It's change vs constant

The two states also have demonstrated the power of the strongest anti-incumbency phenomenon in India in the last few decades.

Chennai: The seizure of a mountain of cash may have ended on a farcical note Friday night as the money was being transported legitimately enough by the country's leading bank. The very fact that Election Commission officials believed, even for a while, that so much money could be the medium of cash-for-votes in Tamil Nadu is emblematic of the corruption of the minds of voters systematically carried out by the Dravidian majors who have been ruling the state for 49 years.

It is a comment on the state of mind of the citizens of the southern tip of the country that the two states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, along with Puducherry union territory, which go to the polls today, should think nothing of graft in public life.

The two states also have demonstrated the power of the strongest anti-incumbency phenomenon in India in the last few decades when the alternative has been invariably voted in.

And yet this is the first time the question arises, with more than passing interest, over whether Ms J. Jayalalithaa and Mr Oomen Chandy will be able to beat back the anti-government vote and dispel the jinx that rulers have faced in states with literacy rates well above the national average.

The Damocles sword of graft, dangling by a thread, hangs over Tamil Nadu with the CM facing a cause celebre in her assets case and important members of the main opposition also up against several investigative and penal processes in the 2G spectrum scam.

The national ruling party, BJP, has taken an unusual interest in trying to build a bridgehead into the southern peninsula, but more so with an eye on the future as it appears it can expect little progress in states where two clear parties or alliances still hold the electoral edge.

While in Kerala, the battle is always between the two fronts, UDF and LDF, the Tamil Nadu electorate is facing multi-cornered choices with many alliances or parties seeking to break the Dravidian duopoly.

In a very important poll, Ms Jayalalithaa is up against the challenge of proving she has the charisma and the vote-pulling power of her political mentor MGR, even as she squares off against a 93-year-old who still believes he is in the prime of political life.

The scenario is much the same in Kerala, where the protagonists are the sprightly chief minister and his bête noir V.S. Achuthanadan, 92 years young.
Ironically, the electorate is getting younger and younger, in line with India’s demographics, even as veteran and stalwarts battle it out, with Mr Achuthanandan carrying the torch to keep communism and likeminded left-leaning politics relevant in the country at a time when the red hue is fading in Russia and China too, even as modernism is dictating the fast pace of change.

In neighbouring Puducherry, incumbent Chief Minister and leader of the ‘All India
NR Congress’, N Rangasamy is battling to hold his seat too, while the DMK has conceded a major part of the seats in the 30-member house to the Congress as part of their electoral pact.

The AIADMK is again on its own there, with Ms Jayalalithaa harping in her campaign how Rangasamy had “betrayed” in befriending the BJP after coasting to power in the 2011 polls with ‘Amma’s support.

The third front of the PWA curiously sees the CPI in Puducherry dominating the alliance, as opposed to the DMDK and MDMK playing that role in Tamil Nadu.
Such is the electoral politics of India that the old still has the hold, regardless of whether the battle is not anymore about ideologies, save in Delhi where a fledgling party is in power.

The question is whether in constant or in change, India’s electorate is better served by its political parties and their leaders.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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