STITCHING ALLIANCES TO DEFINE OUTCOME OF LOK SABHA POLLS IN TAMIL NADU
ITN has transcended persona politics and elections will be fought on ideology, poll promises and smart alliances. Such is the fluidity this time that even the two Dravidian parties are unsure which way the pendulum would swing
T was a chilly January night in Ooty. The sky was clear and the dew pattered on the tiled roof, drop by drop. We sat by a bonfire in the garden in one of the most beautiful hotels in town. The small gathering started ambling towards the warmth of the glowing ember as the night wore on. With the Lok Sabha elections months away, the conversation inevitably veered towards politics. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sudden loss in three major states and the impending elections made for a heady mix and serious discussions with light banter. As the stars shone through the stillness of the night, words that seemed prophetic at times and completely mundane at other, broke the eerie calm. A casual acquaintance from Pune (a medical equipment supplier is what he told us), whom I met just for a few minutes, was a staunch follower of the PM. “Modi will win,” he said convincingly. “We can reap in the next five years the harvest of all the initiatives he has taken in the last five years... GST is good. DeMon was great…” The conversation ended with “he is doing so much for Tamil Nadu, no? I even heard Modiji is running the state now…” I was a little startled. Not by his confidence, but the way he was viewing TN politics. The demise of two strong leaders — former chief ministers J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi — definitely left a vacuum. EPS for him was a CM who was establishing himself. And DMK chief Stalin? Just Karunanidhi’s son. The nuance of EPS successfully evolving as a smart leader was completely lost on him. In fact, EPS is consolidating his position, especially in those areas where the AIADMK is likely to make a mark. I crossed over to Karnataka the next day and as I was sipping coffee over breakfast at a salubrious jungle camp near Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, another acquaintance (a hotelier) had a different view. For him, demonetisation and GST were something the government could have avoided implementing. “It’s a mess and will cost the government this time,” was his observation. Sandwiched between the two diametrically opposite views is the current situation in Tamil Nadu where the fortunes of the two parties don’t hinge on just two leaders anymore. TN has transcended persona politics and elections will be fought on ideology, poll promises and smart alliances. Such is the fluidity this time that even the two Dravidian parties are unsure which way the pendulum would swing. Stitching alliances has turned into a craft. The AIADMK is yet to take the final call, but there are enough indications on its thought process, despite strong anti-BJP sentiments in the state. There is another issue that is perhaps holding back the parties — seat sharing. In the Kongu belt, the AIADMK has been announcing schemes after schemes. It is consolidating its grasp and is expected to do well. It is in this same belt that the BJP would also like to have seats, which the AIADMK would resist. There are rumours that the BJP is even trying to persuade the AMMK, led by AIADMK rebel T T V Dhinakaran, to forge an alliance with AIADMK. However, it seems their leadership is not interested. For AMMK, even if they win three-four seats, it will be a win-win situation. The DMK’s alliance with the Congress that is riding a crest after its victories in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were sealed at a perfect time. But that gave the Congress an opportunity to angle for more seats. However, giving away too many seats to allies could hurt the DMK if they don’t do well at the hustings. Kamal Haasan is the X Factor. Though he declared he would prefer going it alone, it has to be seen what he does closer to the elections. If he lends his weight behind any coalition, given the groundwork he’s laid, the actor could swing a few decisive votes. In such an open election, 5,000 votes would make a huge difference in the final outcome. Unlike in previous elections, perhaps this time alliances will have a bigger say in the final outcome.