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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2521

Tamil Nadu: An election round-up

From Gopal Ethiraj in Chennai

Chennai, 17 May ( before election heat was to settle on Saturday, May 17 (with the election results that day), rain god was kind enough to bring down the temperature in the city which cooled the Tamilnadu capital with summer showers in several parts of the city.

Interestingly, the Met office had predicted sunny weather for Friday. Like the poll prediction, it was not to be. Some cooled; some went in rage. For some it was a welcome rain; for some it was devastating.

Anyhow, it was first downpour of this year’s summer and will hopefully reduce the heat over the coming days. The government-formation and take-off of the 15th Lok Sabha will go on without any hitches as a decisive verdict has emerged.

Here’s an election round-up in Tamil Nadu:

Poll tally:

Of the 28 seats the DMK-Congress combine won in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in the Lok Sabha election, 18 seats were captured by DMK, its allies, the Congress and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, won nine seats and one seat respectively. (As part of the Democratic Progressive Alliance, the DMK contested 22 seats, the Congress 16 constituencies and the VCK two).

The AIADMK-led front won 12 seats (the AIADMK bagged nine seats while its allies, the MDMK, the CPI and the CPI (Marxist) netted one each). The Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), which switched over to the AIADMK camp just before elections and contested in seven constituencies, drew a blank. (The AIADMK contested 23 constituencies, the MDMK four and the two Communist parties three seats each).

The Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), led by Captain Vijayakant, lost in all the 40 seats it contested. Though it did not finish second in any of the seats, it secured over one lakh votes in several constituencies.

The BJP, which contested in 12 constituencies as part of a seven-party alliance, lost in all. Its nominee and former Union Minister Pon. Radhakrishnan finished second in the Kanyakumari constituency by a difference of about 65,700 seats. Party national secretary S. Thirunavuukarasar and State president L. Ganesan lost in the Ramanathapuram and South Chennai constituencies.

M.K. Azhagiri, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s son, won the Madurai constituency by a margin of about 1.4 lakh votes.

Among other prominent winners in the State are Dayanidhi Maran T.R.Baalu, and A. Raja (DMK), P. Chidambaram and M. Krishnasswamy (Congress), M. Thambidurai, S. Semmalai and O.S. Manian (AIADMK), A. Ganesamoorthy (MDMK) and Thol. Thirumavalavan (VCK). Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs V. Narayanasamy won from Puducherry, defeating the sitting Member of Parliament and PMK nominee M. Ramadass.

Union Ministers and Congress leaders Mani Shankar Aiyar and E.V.K.S. Elangovan, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K. V. Thangkabalu, MDMK general secretary Vaiko, two-time Madurai CPI (M) MP P. Mohan, CPI State secretary D. Pandian, BJP’s L. Ganesan and former Union ministers S. Thirunavukkarasar, Pon. Radhakrishnan were the notable losers.

The DMK defeated its arch-rival AIADMK in seven constituencies; the PMK in five constituencies and the MDMK, the CPI and the CPI (M) in two constituencies each. The Congress beat the AIADMK in seven constituencies and defeated the PMK and the MDMK in one seat.

The AIADMK overcame the DMK and the Congress in four constituencies each and the VCK in one seat. The MDMK, CPI and the CPI (M) won one seat each, overtaking the Congress.

AIADMK entering Parliament after five years

AIADMK MPs will be now entering Lok Sabha after a gap of five years. It drew a blank in the last 2004 Lok Sabha polls, and that was for the first time since its inception in 1972.

AIADMK, founded by charismatic actor-politician the late M.G. Ramachandran and now headed by J. Jayalalithaa, had its first MP in 1973 when the party won the Dindigul by-elections. Even during difficult times in 1980, AIADMK had managed to send two MPs and the party had its presence in Parliament till 2004.

The Democratic Progressive Alliance, led by her bete noire and DMK president M Karunanidhi, swept the 2004 polls by winning all 39 seats in the state besides the lone Puducherry seat.

With projections of a highly fractured mandate in the just concluded Lok Sabha polls, AIADMK was one of the most sought-after parties for a possible government formation at the Centre. But with UPA within a striking distance of forming a government, the scene has changed dramatically. AIADMK, which was eagerly looking for a major role at the national level, had to remain content with nine seats, with allies CPI, CPI-M and MDMK winning one each.

Former Education Minister M Thambidurai from Karur, former Rajya Sabha member O.S. Manian and the debutant S Rajendran from South Chennai are among the nine AIADMK MPs who will be representing the party in Parliament after five years.

AIADMK loses southern bastion to DMK team

Contrary to predictions that the AIADMK alliance holds sway in southern Tamil Nadu, considered to be its bastion, the DMK alliance won in nine of the 10 southern constituencies leaving just Tenkasi to CPI’s Po. Lingam, who defeated his Congress rival Vellapandi by 34,717 votes. Before the elections, DMK’s southern secretary M K Azhagiri, who emerged victorious as a debutant in Madurai by a margin of about 1.41 lakh votes, swore to win all 10 constituencies.

And, he came out trumps in nine and kept his promise to rout archrival Vaiko in neighbouring Virudhunagar. Vaiko lost to Congress novice Manik Tagore by 15,764 votes. However, the MDMK has protested the verdict.

BJP’s S Tirunavukkarasar, who finished third, faced a light-weight J K Ritheesh of the DMK in Ramanathapuram, who won by a comfortable margin of 69,915 votes.

BJP senior leader Pon. Radhakrishnan lost to novice Ms Helen Davidson who won by 65,584 votes. J M Haroon, who defeated Thanga Tamilselvan (AIADMK) by 6,302 votes, has been re-elected from Theni. In Dindigul, N S V Chithan has retained his seat defeating the AIADMK candidate by 54,347 votes.

Congress candidate Ramasubbu sprang a surprise in Tirunelveli defeating AIADMK’s K Annamalai by 21,303 votes.In Thoothukudi, AIADMK’s Dr. Cynthia Pandian lost to DMK greenhorn S R Jeyadurai by 76,649 votes. The Sivagangai constituency returned Congress heavyweight P Chidambaram who won by a wafer-thin margin of 3,000-plus votes defeating his nearest rival S Raja Kannappan (AIADMK).

Chidambaram’s rival cries foul

The narrow win of Home Minister P. Chidambaram, in Sivagangai was protested by his rival AIADMK candidate, Raja Kannappan, asking for "re-tally" of votes and threatening to move the court when his demand was turned down.

Chidambaram romped home with a margin of a little over 3000 votes. The Minister had trailed rival Kannappan for most part of the counting, so much so, when the RO declared in the end that Chidambaram was the winner, the AIADMK cadres pelted stones and damaged vehicles in Karaikudi.

Kannappan told reporters that he suspected thillu-mullu (foul play) in the result as the poll officials had been announcing all along that he was leading, until the last round. With the RO turning down his request for "re-tally" of the votes, holding that it would not make any difference since the winning margin was greater than the impact of just one EVM.

Jayalalithaa’s Eelam card boomeranged

It was expected, based on projections in some sections of the media, that Ms Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK-led front would almost entirely gobble up the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu and the one seat in the Union Territory of Puducherry. When the results came, her camp appeared in shambles with the top guns dipping into shocked silence initially and recovering in course of time only to lash out at the rivals accusing them of grabbing the poll win through the use of money and the misuse of official machinery.

"Money was distributed by our opponents across the constituencies. The voters were warned—in some cases even by senior police officers—that they would be punished if they voted for the AIADMK front and this had particularly hurt the minority votes. Considering that margins were low in many seats, it is obvious that we would have won in all the 40 constituencies if only the polls were held in a fair manner," said Shaik Dawood, president, Tamil Nadu Muslim League, an AIADMK ally.

The overall impression is that Jayalalithaa and allies overplayed the Sri Lankan Tamils issue. She even declared that she would get the new government in Delhi send the army to create Eelam in Sri Lanka, just as Indira Gandhi turned East Pakistan into Bangladesh.

Eelam as an election issue did not really percolate down the rural side. It got stuck in the urban constituencies and that too only among the elite and the film personalities. "We failed to get the rural voter interested and that mattered most," said an MDMK senior functionary. His leader Vaiko, the loudest Eelam voice in the Tamil politics, lost in Virudhunagar. It was more unbelievable than the AIADMK results. "Instead of getting stuck to Eelam, our campaigners should have focused more on local issues, such as power cuts and low farm prices," said the MDMK spokesperson, whose party lost three of the four seats it contested.

AIADMK supremo hits out at DMK, EC

AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa condemned the ruling DMK government and the Election Commission (EC) for indulging in ‘anti-democratic activities’ during the May 13 Lok Sabha polls. In a statement, she said the EC was a mute spectator to the DMK’s “anarchic and anti-democratic activities" on polling day.

Free and fair election was the basic need for the smooth functioning of democracy in a country and it was the EC’s responsibility to conduct the election in such a manner, she added.

The DMK’s money, muscle power and authority had won the election and democracy had been buried, said the AIADMK leader.

She alleged that the DMK had distributed money to the voters during the election. Though the AIADMK led allies pointed out all irregularities including booth capturing by the DMK to the EC, it failed to take action, she added. She further alleged that the DMK also influenced the counting process. For example, in Sivaganga constituency, after the news about the victory of the AIADMK candidate, Raja Kannappan, came out, some irregularities took place the Congress candidate P.Chidambaram was announced won.

It should be noted here, in New Delhi the BJP has graciously conceded its defeat and said, "it is the best mandate to rule in favour of the UPA." The BJLPO leader L.K.Advani has also offered to resign as Leader of the Opposition in the 14th Lok Sabha.

PMK’s abysmal performance

"Whichever front the PMK has aligned with has won elections in Tamil Nadu." The PMK founder Dr. S Ramadoss used to boast off. He jumped from the DMK bandwagon to the AIADMK’s just before the elections.

This time his front failed to win. And so did his party. Worse, the PMK failed to get even a single seat out of the six it contested in Tamil Nadu and one in Puducherry.

"The voters have rejected the PMK’s opportunism which saw it become a political broker during every election," DMK treasurer and state Local Administration Minister M.K. Stalin quipped. This should count as PMK’s worst defeat after 1996. That it tasted defeat even in traditional strongholds like Dharmapuri and Kallakurichi proves that the PMK may be losing its tight hold over the Vanniyars, its casteist voting bloc. It has been leveraging support amongst its community to create an impression of invincibility in every election. Now that claim stands exposed.

The party could also be feeling the impact of Vijayakanth’s DMDK, which appears to be eating into its vote bank with every passing election. Though the DMDK did not win a single Lok Sabha seat, its mere presence in the electoral fray has upset the calculations of the PMK.

The PMK also overplayed issues like the Lankan Tamil problem in the misguided hope that it can hijack the Tamil chauvinistic platform monopolized by the DMK. Even the performance of its Union Ministers – which Dr Ramadoss used to flaunt repeatedly – did not come to the rescue of his party this time.

By this abysmal performance, the PMK is bound to lose the bargaining clout it used to command before every election. If only he had remained with the UPA, Dr Ramadoss would have continued to see his son Dr. Anbumani in the Central Minister. With no Lok Sabha MP at his command, he has been reduced to a state of irrelevance in Delhi. Now the AIADMK may not even honour the Rajya Sabha seat promised to Dr Anbumani when his RS term ends in 2010. Election 2009 could mean the beginning of the decline of the PMK in Tamil Nadu.

Venugopal gets highest margin

DMK candidate for Tiruvannamalai constituency D. Venugopal registered the highest victory margin in the state in the 15th Lok Sabha elections.

Registering a victory margin of 1, 48,300 votes, he pushed Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s son M.K. Azhagiri, who secured a victory margin of 1.40 lakh votes, to the second position in the highest winning margin. (A total of 4, 36, 866 votes were polled by Venugopal against PMK candidate J Gurunathan’s 2, 88,566 votes.)

The other highest margins are: Jagathrakshakan of DMK won the Arakkonam seat with 1, 09, 796 votes margin. While he polled 4, 15, 041 votes, PMK candidate and former Union minister R. Velu got a total of 3, 05, 245 votes.

IUML candidate Abdul Rahman, who contested in DMK’s 'rising sun' symbol, won with a margin of 1, 07,393 votes. He got 3, 60, 474 votes against AIADMK candidate LKMP Vasu, who got 2, 53, 081 votes.
Congress candidate and former TNCC president M Krishnasamy emerged as winner with a margin of 1, 06, 831 votes against AIADMK candidate Mukkur Subramani from ARNI.

Captain emerges 'third force'

Actor-politician Vijayakanth has proved that his DMDK is not a flash in the pan but is the third important party in Tamil Nadu, after the ruling DMK and the main opposition AIADMK. In the 2006 state polls too DMDK emerged in the third place.

Most of his candidates came third in this poll and he has clearly eaten into Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK vote bank of women and youth by projecting himself as "Karuppu MGR"SS (Black MGR) who cares for the poor just like the late AIADMK founder.

Reacting to the election results, Vijayakanth claimed that he did not want DMDK to become just another political party in the state. "We decided that our party would contest the elections alone to provide good governance," he said. "We did not want to give any room for casteism, communalism and corruption and hence we had to make a sacrifice."

"Our leader was the only person who had hit the roads even before the other parties finalised alliances and seat sharing talks," said a senior DMDK leader. "Captain and Anni focused only on the local issues in every constituency. We are clearly emerging as a reckoning force, even if we have not won any seat."

L.K.Sudeesh, DMDK’s star candidate from Kallakurichi and the brother in law of Vijayakanth, secured 1,32,248 votes. However, another high-profile candidate, Mr S.Austin, failed to make to the third position and trailed behind the DMK, the BJP and the AIADMK.

Ma Foi. K. Pandiarajan, who contested from Virudhunagar secured 1,25,229 votes. The party’s Chidambaram candidate, S.Sasikumar, bagged 66,233 votes, Kaviyarasu in Madurai polled 1,27,476 votes and the kin of former Kashmir chief minister and Vellore candidate, Shaukath Sherif, secured only 62,696 votes while Ganapathy in Villupruam got 12,476 votes. Political analysts feel that the DMDK had eaten into the vote bank of the PMK in the north and the AIADMK in the south. Even in Chennai the DMDK continued to retain its third position.

Virudhunagar voters dump Vaiko this time

The people of Virudhunagar have dumped MDMK leader Vaiko, one of the star candidates of the AIADMK-led front.

He was expected to make a clean sweep in his home town, Virudhunagar, but was trounced by an ‘unknown’ Congress candidate, Manicka Tagore, with by a margin of 15,764 votes.

The MDMK, which was hopeful of winning at least two out of the four constituencies which it contested, could manage secure win only Erode Lok Sabha constituency.

Vaiko alleged that the money power of the DMK and the Congress was behind his defeat. "Despite the DMK and the Congress using their money and muscle power the AIADMK front could win in 13 constituencies," he said in a statement on Friday. He alleged that there was 'major distribution' of money in the Virudhunagar constituency with the help of the police on May 10, 11 and 12.

However, MDMK sources also blamed the alliance leader and AIADMK supremo, Ms J. Jayalaithaa, for the party’s defeat in Thanjavur and Nilgiris. "We asked for Arani and Thiruvallur where we had strong candidates," said a party insider. "But the AIADMK leadership refused and asked us contest against the DMK heavy weight A.Raja in Nilgiris."

In Thanjavur, it was pretty sure that the DMK candidate and union minister of state for finance, S.S.Palanimanikkam, would win against MDMK candidate, Durai Balakrishnan.

Vaiko secured 2,91,423 votes in Virudhunagar. MDMK sources said that actor politician and Nadaalum Makkal Katchi leader, Mr Karthick, played spoilsport by polling 17,336 votes which should have gone to Vaiko. The DMDK candidate, K.Pandiarajan, also played a role by securing 1,25,229 votes.

Analysts said that Vaiko overplayed Sri Lankan Tamils issue without focusing much on local problems. "In Virudhunagar, labour problems in Sivakasi were the big issue and not Eelam and Sri Lankan Tamils," said a party leader. "The MDMK did not focus much on the local issues."

DMK loses South Chennai, its stronghold

Even when the DMK scored well in the state, it failed to demonstrate in its strong hold in South Chennai. Its candidate R.S. Bharathi lost to AIADMK Chitlapakkam S. Rajendran, who is making an electoral debut, by 32,935 votes.

"In spite of muscle and money power the AIADMK has made it. All this is because of 'Amma' (Jayalalithaa)," AIADMK candidate Rajendran told reporters at Anna University, the counting centre for South Chennai constituency. Interestingly South Chennai is one of the biggest constituencies in the country with a total electorate of 7,26,329. And also it is the only constituency where 43 candidates were in the fray. The number of independents was higher than those affiliated to the bigger parties.

In all, the DMK won all the four while the Congress lost only one of the six it contested. However, it was the DMDK candidates who finished third in all these constituencies who played spoilsport for of the AIADMK in its so-called southern bastion.

Thangkabalu: Sri Lanka was never a poll issue

"The winning performance of the DPA alliance has proved that the Sri Lanka issue was never been an election issue," the TNCC president K.V. Thangkabalu has said on Saturday.The Congress leader pointed out that had it been a major political issue, than MDMK’s Vaiko and candidates of PMK should have won the polls. "The AIADMK which h advocated Tamil Eelam on political platforms during the campaign should have swept the polls."

E.V.K.S.Elangovan, union Minister, expressed the same sentiment from Erode, where he contested and lost.

Karunanidhi seeks immediate action on Lankan Tamils issue

Congratulating the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the outcome of the general elections, Chief Minister Karunanidhi on Saturday urged the Centre to take necessary steps to prevent the continuance of destruction human lives and property and ensure peace in Sri Lanka.

"Any delay in this regard will nullify the tremendous amount of constructive steps we have taken so far," he said in a letter to the two leaders.

Security for Bharathiraja

Director Bharathiraja has been provided security, both at his office in Gemini and his Neelankarai residence, after his office was attacked. The city police commissioner said three or four persons allegedly ransacked his office, damaging window panes and computers. Bharathiraja who spearheaded a pre-poll campaign targeting some state Congress leaders for failing the sympathise with the genocide in Sri Lanka and had given a call for their defeat in the recently concluded elections.

- Asian Tribune -

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