Stalin's election success unlikely to shake up Tamil Nadu politics soon

For Stalin, who has been looking for a larger role at the Centre if the major parties do not get a majority, the overall Lok Sabha results do not give him hold in Delhi now
The results for the Lok Sabha election in 38 constituencies and the by-polls in 22 Assembly seats in Tamil Nadu might have given a mixed outcome for both major political parties in the state — the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) — but it has clearly shown a few trends such as the anti-incumbency wave against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre and people’s displeasure with some of the regional parties.

Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami-led AIADMK government can breathe a sigh of relief as his party has won nine seats of the 22 Assembly seats that voted in the by-polls, which could help it to survive with a majority on the floor, even as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) won the rest 13. The government, which is considered unstable since February 2017, has now completed two years and this victory is expected to help it continue for the remaining two years before the state polls in 2021.

With 113 MLAs, excluding the Assembly speaker, the AIADMK need four seats, along with retaining a few disgruntled MLAs, to cross the half-way mark of 117 in a House of 234. By bagging nine seats, the ruling faction is now safe. The DMK-led alliance has 97 MLAs in the Assembly, including eight from the Congress and one from the Indian Union Muslim League.

Experts are of the view that Palaniswami’s tactics to bring in the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and others into its alliance has worked well and now he may be able to consolidate his power in the party. However, the challenge for Palaniswami is to ensure that none of his MLAs moves out anymore.

S Raveenthran Duraisamy, a political expert and commentator, said the AIADMK has worked tirelessly to save the government. “There were only two possibilities — either Edappadi or an election. With these results, Edappadi may be able to continue,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the party and its allies, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the PMK and Vijaykant’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), have performed poorly in the Lok Sabha election. The AIADMK won one Lok Sabha seat, while the DMK and its allies swept the rest 37 seats.  There were allegations that allies did not get adequate support from local AIADMK leaders. 

Questions have also been raised that how AIADMK Co-ordinator and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam’s son alone could win from Theni Lok Sabha constituency, even as the other candidates and the alliance members failed to bring up anything near to that performance. These questions might in the long run impact ties between the alliance partners, according to experts.

As far as the relation between the NDA government at the Centre and the AIADMK-led government in the state is concerned, there has been harmony in most policy matters and this is expected to continue, considering the BJP would still be looking to grow its presence in southern states.

For Stalin, who has been looking for a larger role at the Centre if the major parties do not get a majority, the overall Lok Sabha results do not give him hold in Delhi now. It may be noted that the DMK has been a major ally in the Congress-led governments in 2004 and 2009. 

Duraisamy said that it is unlikely that the DMK MPs would be able to achieve a lot in Delhi as he noted that 37 MPs of the AIADMK in the previous Lok Sabha were also not able to do much as the party wasn’t part of the government at the Centre. 

While many experts are of the view that Stalin had put in a tremendous effort in forming alliances without any tussle and conducted groundwork well, some feel that the party has lost many of its followers — and the victory in the Lok Sabha election was mainly due to anti-incumbency against the ruling parties in the state and at the Centre.

With just 13 more seats in the Assembly, his chances to topple the AIADMK government and form another government has also become almost nil. Stalin may have to work harder to win the Assembly elections next term, considering Palaniswami may become stronger in the AIADMK. 

G Palanithurai, professor of Political Science, Gandhigram Rural University and author of several books on Tamil Nadu politics, said Stalin has been benevolent in sharing seats. For instance, the Congress, which had a 5 per cent vote share in the state, was offered nine seats, while the AIADMK has offered the PMK, which also had a 5 per cent vote share, only five seats. To both Communist parties — CPI and CPI (M) — the DMK gave two seats each. 

Experts said the AIADMK focused on winning the seats required to keep the state government intact and did not support its partners a lot. It has lost credibility among the allies, they said.

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