2011 State Assembly Election Tamil Nadu-Part 1
This article originally appeared in centreright.in. CRI content has now been subsumed in swarajyamag.com. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of swarajyamag.com

(CRI commentariat will be extensively analysing the series of  state elections scheduled for the year 2011. We begin today with a first of a several part analysis on the electoral landscape of Tamil Nadu. Part 1 is a primer on the prospects of two principal players-ruling DMK and  opposition ADMK.  Fellow CRI contributor  Amar Govinarajan will  be collabarating in this exercise)

DMK-Contrary to widespread perception fostered by reporting in national media that party is in neck-deep trouble because of the credibility deficit engendered by all those ill-gotten millions courtesy the intricately executed telecom scam, it would come as bit of a surprise to many when I say that the telecom scam is going to hardly  hurt it electorally in ensuing TN elections. An electoral behavior that has somehow escaped the attention of many a seasoned political analysts-large section of voters have veered to tacitly accepting, at time even condoning corrupt deeds, as long government is seen as “performance-oriented”.

So what if the acerbic tongued, octogenarian Karunanidhi is busy waging  imaginary cultural wars or lustily cheering  on the scantily clad nubile nymphets performing in extravagantly orchestrated,globally televised panegyric programs or arbitrating in occasionally bloody family feuds. An influential section of DMK represented by his industrious and affable son (also anointed heir apparent) Stalin has been doing a reasonable good job of delivering populist welfare scheme, usually cradle to grave freebies, targeted at various segments of the electorate. Ofcourse consequence of such reckless populism is besides the point. DMK is also justifiably perceived as a better bet when it comes to comparative track record in urban infrastructure development. Being one of highly urbanized state means this perception will turn out to be electorally rewarding as well.

DMK has traditionally been an urban centric party, enjoying considerable goodwill among the bureaucrats/teaching community/government servants. In the last few years DMK has made significant inroads to newer segments and  managed to expand its narrow support base. By unleashing strong-arm tactics, leveraging incredible money power and inducing defections, Azhagiri (elder son of Karunanidhi) has managed to wrest many an impregnable ADMK bastions in Southern TN. Azhagiri and his band of followers have also perfected what has come to be known as the “Thirumangalam Model” named after a infamous byelection in which DMK won a landslide victory. Today DMK has the wherewithal to replicate this model across several select constituencies in Southern TN

Even historically Dravidian movement was a pioneer in recognizing the instrumentality of mass media in controlling the popular narrative. Complete control of media apparatus and monopoly over entertainment industry (movies are an integral part of a Tamizhan’s life and times) has served to further strengthen party’s pre-eminence in the state

DMK’s script could till go completely go awry if Congress rocks the alliance boat, possibility of which appears to be remote at this moment of time. Machiavellian politician that Karunanidhi is, he will swallow all the insults heaped by the Congress functionaries, weather the entire storm as a result of the telecom scam, count on Italian Madam’s contempt for Jaya, try forging an alliance with PMK, aim to romp home and then strike back.

In the highly likely scenario of DMK-Congress-PMK-DPI alliance crystallizing, this combine will clearly be in a pole position .With an added advantage of incumbency, it may end up within a striking distance of a working majority.Seat Prediction 120-130

ADMK-The party is facing serious existential crisis precipitated by a variety of factors including Jayalalitha’s inaccessible and irascible leadership style, lackluster opposition to ruling party, exodus of powerful middle-level leaders and complete control of party by a small, petty minded coterie

ADMK has generally be seen as a party of the proletariat class cutting across caste lines in Tamil Nadu thanks to inexhaustible goodwill enjoyed by legendary MGR .But Jaya’s erratic style has been catastrophic for party in the last few years. The party is facing huge attrition in its traditional support base in TN thanks to Azhagiri’s blitzkrieg combined with inability to imaginatively respond to deepening caste consciousness in TN polity. Her desperate overtures to Congress to switch alliance allegiance have been rebuffed so far. Her own record of monumental corruption means that she enjoys no claims of relative credibility over possibly even more corrupt DMK. Her only steadfast ally is the  largely emasculated Vaiko( once the stormy petrel and most promising politician in TN) and he currently brings no great traction to the alliance either

One factor that could potentially be a game-change for Jaya is forging an alliance with DMDK the fledgling political outfit of popular actor Vijaykanth which has clearly established itself as a distant but a clear third political pole in TN. Going by all accounts Vijaykanth is proving to be a hard nut to crack, resisting allurements of Jaya and still mouthing bravado on going it alone. However Vijaykanth, having burnt his fingers in couple of elections already,  is clearly confronted with the reality of having to meet the astronomical cost involved in sustaining a political movement. So it wouldn’t be surprising if he drives a hard bargain with Jaya and gets 50-70 seats as a reward to join the ADMK alliance

Jaya also seems to have managed to hold on to her Left allies (CPM and CPI).Both these parties have isolated pockets of strong electoral presence in TN especially among the agrarian workers. Left parties have some leaders of unimpeachable personal integrity hailing from impoverished background (unlike the upper-class elitist national leadership). Left has also recently been in forefront of temple entry movements and tends to be a useful asset to any major Dravidian party who they ally with

Jaya has also been desperately trying to reach out to the Church which is increasingly become powerful force in determining the electoral outcome (in another 20 years Korean model is likely to be successfully replicated in TN). She had incurred the wrath of Christian community for her anti-conversion legislation.  She recently promised sops to them including a state subsidized trip to Jerusalem

Given her indefatigable spirit, uniquely barnstorming election campaign style, possibility of some deft alliance deals, continued backing of influential Mukkolathor comunity  and an unlikely scenario of undetected popular groundswell against DMK’s misdeeds coming to play, Jaya can still make a mark .However she faces overwhelming odds including the huge hostility of the well-entrenched government servant/teaching community

In the highly likely scenario of ADMK-MDMK-DMDK-Left alliance crystallizing, this combine could do well to  reach 80 seats