In Tamil Nadu elections :
Eelam lobbyists bite the dust
The pro-Eelam lobby in Tamil Nadu, which gets significant media attention both
in Tamil Nadu and in the Tamil media in Sri Lanka, suffered an ignominious
defeat in the May 16 Tamil Nadu State Assembly elections.
Although the manifesto of the winning party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra
Kazhagam (AIADMK), had promised to help establish a separate Tamil Eelam for the
Tamils of Sri Lanka, the AIADMK is by no means a pro-Eelam party.
A jubilant Jayalalithaa romps home. Pic: Courtesy newsx.com
At election time, it plays to the gallery like most political parties. The
reference to Eelam is therefore taken with the required pinch of salt. The real
pro-Eelam parties are the Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) led by Sabastian Seeman, and
the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), led by Vaiko. While the
AIADMK rode to power, the NTK and MDMK drew a blank.
Others who have a radical stand on the Sri Lankan Tamil question but stress
other issues also, are the Viduthalai Chirutthai Katchi (VCK) led by Thol
Thirumavalavan and the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), led by Dr.Anbumani Ramadoss.
But neither the VCK nor the PMK could win a seat in the House of 234. In fact,
the entire leadership of the pro-Eelam lobby had to bite the dust. Foreseeing
defeat, Vaiko had chickened out of the contest.
Sabastian Seeman had campaigned on a radical Tamil platform saying that only
‘pure Tamils’ should rule Tamil Nadu. He asked voters to reject AIADMK leader
Jeyaram Jayalalithaa, who is a Brahmin from Karnataka, and DMK leader Muttavel
Karunanidhi, who is believed to be of Telugu origin. Seeman promised to make the
consumption of toddy (traditional rural Tamil liquor) legal; change the
Hinduistic emblem of the State which shows a kovil; appoint herdsmen and farmers
as civil servants and institute a benevolent dictatorship.
Seeman’s party, NTK, contested all the 234 seats and got 458,000 votes in a
total electorate of 43 million, thus accounting for 0.1 percent of the vote. It
could win no seat. In Cuddalore, from which Seeman himself contested, he polled
12, 497 votes and came fifth.
Vaiko’s MDMK did better, though it also could not win a seat. It contested 29
seats as part of an alliance, and got 0.8 percent of the votes. VCK also did
badly, though its leader, Thirumavalavan, lost only by a small margin.
Preference for moderates
Actor Vijayakanth’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), which was the
leader of an alliance comprising the MDMK; VCK; a breakaway faction of the
Congress led by G.K.Vasan; and the two Communist parties, failed miserably.
Vijayakanth’s outfit got only 2.4 percent of the votes polled.
The PMK, led by Anbumani Ramadoss, also had a poor run. It contested all the 234
seats and got 5.3 percent of the votes polled. It got no seat, including the one
which Anbumani contested. From the overall results, it is apparent that the
Tamil Nadu voters had plumbed for moderate and tried and tested parties like the
AIADMK and the DMK. Out of a total of 234 seats, 134 went to the AIADMK and 97
to the DMK, and the Indian Union Muslim League got one. Elections in two
constituencies had been countermanded by the Election Commission on account of
For the AIADMK and Jayalalithaa, the results were a major morale booster at a
time, when it seemed that the DMK was on a comeback trail and there was a Third
Front led by a popular film actor ‘Captain’ Vijayakanth. By getting a second
successive term, the AIADMK under her, has broken the jinx militating against it
since 1984. The AIADMK has also come to power without having big allies.
It was thought that the anti-incumbency factor would mar her chances. The great
deluge which hit metropolitan Chennai a few months ago had tarnished the image
of the AIADMK government led by Jayalalithaa as the people of the city felt that
her administration did not rise to the occasion. She also had corruption cases
against her and had even spent some time in jail. But at the end of the day,
these blemishes did not adversely affect her chances.
As expected, the DMK did vastly improve its performance as compared to the 2011
Assembly elections and the Parliamentary elections in 2014 in which it drew a
blank. The exit-polls suggested that the front led by the DMK could trounce the
AIADMK. However, the DMK could not inspire the voters with a leader who is 91
and an heir apparent, son M. K. Stalin, who is still to win the confidence of
The Third Front led by Vijayakanth did show promise in the beginning with a
fairly impressive lineup of parties, but the voters were wary about handing over
the administration of the State to a motley crowd of parties which were known
for agitations rather than administrative ability.
As for the Pattali Makkal Katchi, despite its efforts to portray itself a
pan-Tamil party, is still seen by voters as a party of the Vanniyar community.
The Dalits see the PMK as an anti-Dalit party. The PMK vehemently opposes
Dalit-Vanniyar marriages, for example. The VCK led by Thirumavalavan, is seen as
a Dalit party, though it sought to paint itself as an all-Tamil party by
championing the Eelam Tamil cause.
The Tamil Nadu elections also show that while caste plays a role in the choice
of candidates and in the allocation of constituencies among candidates, it is
not a rallying point as such. Pan-Tamil, multi-caste parties have a greater
chance of winning elections than explicitly caste-based parties.
The voters also rejected the ‘one-issue parties’ like the MDMK and the NTK.
While all parties seek justice for the Sri Lankan Tamils, the MDMK and NTK
stress only the Eelam Tamil issue as if the main and only concern of Tamil Nadu
voters is about what is happening to the Sri Lankan Tamils.