The past elections in Tamil Nadu witnessed a ‘wave’ through which a political party assumed power. Since 1967 it has been either the DMK or AIADMK which formed the government. Somehow, Tamil Nadu has never witnessed a hung assembly or an opposition strong enough to stall Bills and to give ‘a run’ to the ruling party in the Assembly.
The DMK or AIADMK formed governments supported by smaller parties but never shared power with them. In 1996, it was a clean sweep for DMK with an alliance of Tamil Manila Congress (TMC) of Moopanar but DMK did not share power with TMC.
In 2001, again it was a sweep for AIADMK and this time the party had many smaller parties supporting it like TMC (Moopanar) INC, PMK, the two communist parties and all of them together were able to make it a majority and the AIADMK formed the government with 132 seats. They did not share power with any of the alliance partners.
In 2006, DMK formed the government by winning 96 seats and its alliance partners INC won 34 seats, PMK 18 and the Communist parties 15 seats. For the first time in the electoral history of TN, the DMK, on its own, did not have a majority, but formed the government with the support of alliance partners from outside. The history of parties coming to power since 1967 shows that either DMK or AIADMK came to power with the support of the smaller parties, except during the period 1977 to1987 when MGR was the AIADMK leader and Chief Minister.
The smaller parties were never part of the government, particularly in 2006-2011 when a minority party (DMK) formed the government with outside support. Though the INC did raise the issue of sharing power, the DMK was strong enough politically to keep the INC out. Coalition has been ‘foreign’ to the two political parties for close to half a century.
This election is a demonstration of the power and independence of smaller parties, which has resulted in the formation of People’s Welfare Alliance (PWA). This also signifies the end of the two party (alliance) system. Smaller parties (parties which helped the AIADMK or DMK to come to power) were on both sides of the alliance, sometimes winning and sometimes losing.
At times they were opportunist in trying to support the party which formed the government. There were no compelling reasons for these parties to go for making or breaking an alliance. Except DMDK, which fought as an alliance partner with AIADMK in 2011, all other parties — PMK, TMC, VCK, and the national parties such as BJP, INC and the two Communist Parties — were part of a winning or a losing alliance in the electoral history of TN. MDMK was either on the side of AIADMK or did not participate in the election.
The People’s Welfare Front (PWF) was born out of the frustration of smaller parties who always lend their support to form governments but they themselves never formed the government. The PWF is the result of continuous humiliation at the hands of either DMK or AIADMK which formed governments since 1967. In the traditional two-alliance election mode of Tamil Nadu, the third front is a new concept. In any country where there is a two party system it is difficult for a third party or a third candidate to make an impact with the voters.
Though politically breaking the traditional two party alliances and bringing a third front is a welcoming feature it takes time for such a ‘third front’ to get people to their side. Psychologically preparing people to the concept of third front is also difficult.
Except AIADMK and DMK, which project their leader automatically as chief ministerial candidate, none of the other parties ever named anyone as CM candidate. For the first time in the history of TN, the PWF has named Mr Vijayakanth as their CM candidate if they come to power. PMK has gone ahead in announcing Dr Anbumani Ramadoss as the CM candidate much before the elections were announced. In a parliamentary form of government it is not a tradition to name the PM (at the national level) and CM (at the State level) because the leader of the majority party forms the government and the leader of the majority party becomes the PM or CM.
In the recently concluded Bihar state election one of the reasons for the defeat of BJP was not naming a CM candidate. Smaller and new to the game parties such as Naam Tamilar Party led by Seeman and Tamil Desiya Munnani of P. Nedumaran and the Green Party of SP Udayakumar have not tested their strength in the elections, but their issue oriented politics is something new to Tamil Nadu and their articulation of various issues affecting Tamil Nadu and its growth is worth reflecting.
As the campaign picks up momentum, promises of the political parties push the people of Tamil Nadu to choose between ‘Welfare’ and ‘populism’.
Individuals, civil society organisations and people have articulated their demand for quality education, employment opportunity for the youth, access to health and an expansion in transportation, alternate energy sources and infrastructural facilities. In short, it is going to be a vote for ‘Inclusive development’ of the State.
People of TN are demanding a government which is not corrupt nor indulges in corrupt practices, good governance, transparency, welfare of the weaker sections and for total prohibition. So freebies cannot go on endlessly to keep the people always at the receiving end. One should earn one’s livelihood and ‘charity’ is demeaning and it robs the dignity of a person.
(The writer is with the Loyola Institute for Social Science Training and Research (LISSTAR).