Explaining Tamil Nadu 2014
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


Tamils have always had to explain their quirky characteristics to perplexed North Indians. They have done this since the days of the Constituent Assembly. The latest chapter in the ‘explain yourselves to the rest of the country’ saga is the inability to understand why Tamil Nadu seems to have defied the Modi wave and instead awarded Jayalalithaa with 37 out of 39 seats.

Now, nobody imagined NDA was going to win anything more than 4-6 seats in the state. The entrenched Dravidian bipolarity was not expected to give way. Judged against this benchmark NDA’s score of two seats from the state is not a very big set back.

What really needs an explanation is the unexpected surge in ADMK’s performance. The biggest estimate of ADMK’s tally was 30 seats. However, the ruling party in the state defied all expectations by scoring 37 seats.

How did Jayalalithaa’s manage this in her third year since the 2011 assembly elections victory?

The first factor to which this success is attributed to is money.  Tamil Nadu enjoys the dishonorable reputation of being a state where parties indulge in direct cash distribution in lieu of votes. Many a by-elections have been ‘fixed’ this way and votes have been ‘sold’ for Rs.500 or so. However, in this election ADMK’s victory margins in most seats is nearly 1,50,000 votes in 25 of the 37 seats the party has won. The party has scored an unprecedented vote share of 44% in the state. Money could have been just an incremental factor.

The second factor is Jayalalithaa’s slew of freebies, doles and welfare measures. It is so bad (or good) in Tamil Nadu that you can actually enjoy a decent breakfast for Rs 5 at an Amma canteen, wash it down with an Amma mineral water bottle for Rs 10,  go goat or cow shepherding for a while (animals given to you for free), switch on your free table-fan for air, watch a movie on the free laptops, go cycling (everybody needs exercise) on free cycles and perhaps settle down for a matinee show at a Amma theater.

Third. Many people were actually convinced Jayalalithaa would mop up her seats in Tamil Nadu and eventually end up supporting Modi. ADMK actively encouraged the rumour that Modi and Jayalalithaa had a good rapport and well, if that was the case why ‘waste a vote’ on NDA?

Fourth, DMK was nowhere. Karunanidhi’s heirs were still slugging it out between themselves and Jayalalithaa did not do anything that will shift public memory away from the DMK’s corrupt administration before 2011. In addition, A.Raja was given a ticket again!

I hope this explains why Jayalalithaa scored what she has scored. As you can see, all that one needed was a little hindsight and everything seems to fall in place.