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Sunday, 22 May 2016





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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

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.

Radical stances

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 corrupt practices.

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 people.

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.

Caste marginal

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.


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