Chennai, May 16: Jayalalithaa stemmed the Modi wave, piloting her AIADMK to an unprecedented stand-alone win with 37 of Tamil Nadu’s 39 seats.
The BJP and ally PMK won one seat each to deny her a clean sweep. Former allies DMK and the Congress drew a blank.
In spite of such a stupendous victory, there was little to celebrate for Jayalalithaa as the Modi juggernaut in the rest of the country had trampled her ambition of being part of the next central government. There was no trace of happiness on Jayalalithaa’s face when she appeared before the TV cameras to thank voters.
When asked if she would be part of the next government she replied: “There are no circumstances for that now.”
She went on to declare that the AIADMK would function as a responsible political party. Asked if she expected a friendlier government at the Centre, the chief minister replied with an indifferent smirk: “I wish the new government well. I wish the new Prime Minister well. I hope it will be friendly towards Tamil Nadu.” Certainly not the tone of a victor.
The elections proved the AIADMK remains the largest political force in the state with over 40 per cent votes, an assessment which had emboldened Jayalalithaa to dump the Left parties at the beginning of the campaign.
She had also rightly calculated that even those who wanted Narendra Modi to be Prime Minister would view the AIADMK as a more winnable option as the BJP front would struggle to get past the winning post as the NDA’s partners would struggle to mutually transfer votes to fellow constituents. “Many voted for the AIADMK knowing that she would ultimately help Modi form a government. They trusted the AIADMK’s winnability more than the NDA’s,” said S.R. Sekar, a BJP functionary.
Jayalalithaa’s aggressive attacks in which she accused the DMK and the Congress of having betrayed the interests of Tamil Nadu — on Cauvery, fishermen, power and allocation of Central funds and projects — had an impact on voters. “She repeatedly focused on the failure of the UPA on national security and economy and its failure to control the corruption of DMK’s central ministers. She picked her target early and kept at it relentlessly much before the BJP did,” said Thuglak editor Cho Ramaswamy.
AIADMK spokesperson Avadi Kumar explained the results. “Our leader’s decision not tie up with the BJP brought in the minority votes, as demonstrated by the defeat of the allies of the DMK in the three constituencies they had contested. Similarly Christians were also happy with her (Jayalalithaa) government’s gesture of funding trips to Jerusalem. As usual, women voters stood solidly behind her.”
Jayalalithaa’s victory was also the result of a positive vote in the absence of any anti-incumbency against her. For example, the manner in which she got the Cauvery tribunal award published in the gazette earned her enormous goodwill from the farmers of the Cauvery delta region.
“She was honest about admitting that there was a power crisis and that she would set it right. People believed her that she was earnest since she had carried out other election promises like free laptops, mixies and fans,” S. Devsahayam, a former IAS officer, said.
While her 15-year wait to be part of a Delhi government could not be accomplished, Jayalalithaa can rejoice that she ensured the drubbing of her biggest rival, the DMK, and her latest irritant —Vijayakanth’s DMDK, an ally of the BJP. She put paid to the ambitions of the candidates she targeted — A. Raja, Dayanidhi Maran and T.R. Baalu of the DMK, and Karti Chidambaram of the Congress.
For the DMK, this is the first time since 1991 that it has failed to win a single Lok Sabha seat and Stalin’s strategy of dumping the Congress and sidelining his elder brother Alagiri appears to have misfired. Though he carried out a robust campaign, Stalin failed to attract the younger voters who went either with Jayalalithaa or the BJP.
The BJP-led NDA has proved the only other winner from Tamil Nadu — a creditable first for a non-AIADMK, non-DMK front. It has finished second in six seats, proving it can live to fight another day.