The exit polls for Tamil Nadu came in on Thursday evening, and the ruling AIADMK, which is an NDA constituent has much to worry about. Almost all exit polls, barring Pradeep Bhandari’s Jan Ki Baat gave a handsome victory to MK Stalin-led Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). India Today-Axis even went on to predict a landslide victory for the DMK this time around. Needless to say, all exit polls are unanimous in their understanding of Tamil Nadu, and the AIADMK by no stretch of one’s imagination seems to be coming back to power. According to a poll of polls, out of the total 234 seats, the DMK is predicted to win 162, while the ruling AIADMK-led alliance is expected to win 69 seats.
Tamil Nadu has been ruled by the AIADMK for ten continuous years now – a feat like no other. Tamilians love change, and voting the AIADMK back to power for the third consecutive time, in the absence of a stalwart like Jayalalitha was always a no-brainer for them. Additionally, the AIADMK is a divided house, while the DMK has visibly been galloping towards one goal for the past few months – that of installing MK Stalin as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
There are a variety of reasons behind the AIADMK+ not being able to pull off a stunner this election. First, Jayalalithaa – who was the tallest leader of Tamil Nadu, was not able to give her party a successor to rally behind prior to her demise. This left the AIADMK struggling to choose a leader on its own, and factionalism grew since nobody was sure if the emerging leaders would have been ratified by Jayalalithaa if she was around. The party continues to be divided between the OPS and EPS factions, and this severely dents the AIADMK’s fortunes in this election.
MK Stalin will be a strongman chief minister, much like Pinarayi Vijayan of Kerala. That goes without saying. The DMK will come to revolve around him, and so will the party cadre and its support base. That will pave the way for the son of M. Karunanidhi to continuously rule Tamil Nadu for at least a decade. The DMK’s win this time around would be historic for the party, as it would make them relevant in state politics once again. Frankly, if MK Stalin was unable to win this election, his political career would have been finished. If he could not win this election, there would be no election left for him to win.
Fortunately for him, he seems to be winning the state assembly handsomely this time. Part of the DMK’s success in these elections also stems from the fact that Sasikala did not do much for the AIADMK, thus leaving the party hollow from inside and losing its charm. Sasikala even denied the offer to campaign for the party prior to and during the polls, despite being released from jail. It almost seemed as if she was uninterested to contribute to the AIADMK any longer.
Part of Sasikala’s reluctance to campaign perhaps stemmed from the fear of muddying her hands in the factionalism-ridden waters of the party, where the EPS and OPS camos cannot seem to agree on how the party and state are to be run. By not stepping in to tone down tempers of both the factions, Sasikala perhaps has been paving the path for her playing a future ‘godmother’ role in the party. Whatever her reasons may be, the AIADMK’s immediate electoral fortunes seem to have taken a big hit. Of course, the rivalling factions too must bear responsibility for the unpleasant results which are expected for the AIADMK on Sunday.
If AIADMK actually wanted to win or give a tough competition to the DMK, it should have brought in a popular face or celebrity to campaign for it. Although Chief Minister EPS is well-liked in Tamil Nadu, the simple fact remains that the AIADMK suffers a massive anti-incumbency which not even Edappadi K. Palaniswami has been able to overcome. He has been a victim of collateral damage this election season. Going forward, the AIADMK will need to overhaul itself, especially when MK Stalin is expected to make the political environment in Tamil Nadu hostile for opposition parties.