STITCH­ING AL­LIANCES TO DE­FINE OUT­COME OF LOK SABHA POLLS IN TAMIL NADU

The New Indian Express - - TAMIL NADU / SOUTH - INDRANEEL DAS Res­i­dent Ed­i­tor, Tamil Nadu Email: [email protected]­di­an­ex­press.com

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.

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