By noon on Thursday when the Bharatiya Janata Party was leading in 341 Parliamentary constituencies across India, Tamil Nadu seemed to be bucking the trend.
From the time of the first round of counting that began at 8 am on Thursday, the southern state started showing a clear move against the alliance forged in the state between the BJP and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
Of the 38 Lok Sabha constituencies that went to polls in Tamil Nadu, the Dravida Munnetra Kazham-led front which includes the Congress was leading in at least 36 seats. The Congress was lalso eading in the Union territory of Puducherry. (The polls in Vellore were cancelled by the Election Commission on April 17 after Rs 11.48 crore in cash was seized from a DMK leader’s home.)
The state, which is ruled by the AIADMK, also voted simultaneously in crucial bye-elections for 22 seats in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. These trends have not gone the way the DMK would have hoped. By 1 pm, the DMK was leading in only 13 and the AIADMK in nine. In the 234-member assembly, the DMK would need 19 seats to unseat the AIADMK government.
However, a clearer picture on the bye-polls is expected to emerge by late afternoon.
Scroll.in’s ground reports in the weeks leading up to the voting in Tamil Nadu on April 18 indicated a strong disenchantment with the Centre. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation decision of 2016 hit the local economy and the introduction of Goods and Services Tax in July 2017 hurt the state’s manufacturing hubs. In addition, many saw the AIADMK-led state government as a puppet of the Centre. These grievances were used to great effect by the DMK in its election campaign.
In the Lok Sabha election trends at noon, the BJP was trailing even in Kanniyakumari, which the party won in 2014. Pon Radhakrishnan, who had clinched the seat by 128,662 votes in 2014, was trailing behind Congress candidate H Vasanth Kumar by 70,868 votes. Even the BJP State president Tamilisai Soundarajan was trailing in Thoothukudi constituency with a huge margin of 84,735, where Kanimozhi Karunanidhi is contesting on behalf of the DMK.
In Sivagangai, BJP national secretary H Raja was trailing behind Congress candidate Karthi P Chidambaram by 50,958 votes. In Coimbatore, Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate PR Natarajan was leading by 2,216 votes against the BJP candidate CP Radhakrishnan. The CPI (M) is part of the DMK alliance.
But AIADMK candidate OP Raveendranath, the son of Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, was leading in Theni. Former Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss of the Pattali Makkal Katchi was ahead in Dharmapuri. His party is a member of the NDA.
Disappointment with AIADMK
The AIADMK has been in turmoil since the death of its leader J Jayalalithaa in December 2016: several party leaders have battled it out in an attempt to establish themselves as her successor.
Though the AIADMK had won 37 seats in 2014 contesting on its own, it feared it could face an anti-incumbency sentiment. In an attempt to ward this off, it stitched up an alliance with political parties that represented the state’s dominant caste groups.
It shared seven seats with Pattali Makkal Katchi, which represents the Vanniyar community, a most backward class group in Tamil Nadu. The caste group has a strong presence in the northern districts of Tamil Nadu. The AIADMK also roped in the Puthiya Tamizhagam Katchi lead by K Krishnasamy, representing the Devendra Kula Vellalar, a Scheduled Caste group.
In the western districts, the AIADMK was counting on the support of the dominant Vellala Gounders, the community to which Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami belongs. But that strategy has come a cropper in the Lok Sabha polls, with the DMK sweeping the region, even Palaniswami’s home district of Salem.
The AIADMK also seemed to be getting wiped out in the state’s coastal areas and the Cauvery delta region, where it had enjoyed unwavering support from the fishing community since the 1970s.
In Chennai too, the DMK was ahead in all three parliamentary seats.
In the run-up to the polls, there were indications that the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam led by TTV Dhinakaran would eat into the votes of the AIADMK and give the DMK an edge. However, though the the party polled several thousands of votes in all constituencies, its impact was minimal: the DMK was leading in most seats by huge margins.
The same held true for actor Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam. Trends indicate that it has polled an appreciable number of votes in urban and heavily industrialised areas such as Chennai, Coimbatore, Tirupur.
The Tamil nationalist Naam Tamizhar Katchi has emerged as the third-biggest party in some seats, as per early trends. According to the Election Commission of India website, parties in the “Others” category outside the two main alliances had polled about 15% votes till noon.