Return Of Amma

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Amma’s back, defying the worst predictions. But what of the future? The BJP’s increase in vote share maybe small but has only whetted that party’s appetite for Fort St. George. BY SURYA GANGADHARAN

‘Amma Nadu: Where Jayalalitha equals God’ went one headline, ‘Only an Amma knows her children, not an old man’ said another. As the results from the Tamil Nadu assembly elections trickled in, it was clear that the Lady of Poes Garden had beaten illness, floods and accusations of lackluster governance to return to Fort St. George with more than 40% of the vote.

While allegations of vote buying are doing the rounds, there seems little doubt that Amma’s combination of freebies along with promises of more if she won, may have had its impact. As a recent analysis put it, “Those who laugh at the Amma model and Tamil Nadu’s freebies don’t take into account that an engineering college student takes his free Amma laptop to the class without removing the Amma sticker on it. For the poor people of Tamil Nadu, freebies are a welcome gesture and they didn’t think they could expect anything better from any of the other parties.”

But it’s important to note that this was not a swing election unlike the past or even the recent past. The AIADMK retained its vote share in its traditional bastion in the south and west; the DMK with its 39.8% vote share retained its base in north and central Tamil Nadu although its alliance with the Congress turned out a damp squib.

It lost some seats in the north where the PMK of Ambumani Ramadoss has support (of course that did not help Mr. Ramadoss). Election pundits say the PMK “took away” the anti-AIADMK votes, leading to its candidates losing in 10-15 constituencies in the north.

The loss rankles, DMK insiders saying the party blundered at the very outset by not projecting Stalin, Karunanidhi’s son as the chief ministerial face. Instead, the party went to town with the 93 year father, contradicting their own propaganda that Jayalalitha, hardly visible in public given illness and age, was an “absentee chief minister”.

This is one explanation but one cannot overlook the corruption of the DMK, of Karunanidhi sitting together with 2G scamsters like A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran while publicly inveigling against Jayalalitha’s corruption. But all may not be lost. It’s clear now that Stalin will be Leader of the Opposition and over the course of the next five years, will have ample opportunity to “build his brand” and otherwise plot his way to the chief minister’s chair in the next election. If the party had won this time, Karunanidhi would have taken over and sections of the family would have buried Stalin’s ambitions.

Vijaykanth and his DMDK crashed ignominiously, his 7.8% vote share of 2011 plunging to 2.4% even with the combined campaigning of Vaiko, the Left parties and VCK. As for the BJP, a vote share of 2.9% is considered “pretty good” by the pundits considering the party’s minuscule support base. That it was able to play spoiler in many constituencies along with the PMK, NTK and DMDK, is a pointer to the future. In fact, a BJP-PMK tie up could present a major challenge, the BJP with its 2.9% and the PMK with its 5.3%, adding up to 8.2%. That could be the way forward.

Summary

  • Tamil Nadu is set for Amma 2.0 with the Lady of Poes Garden beating the pundits and nay sayers to return
  • DMK retained its vote share but lost, nevertheless Stalin can now look forward to building his brand for the great leap forward
  • The BJP’s appetite has been whetted with this election, expect the party to build on this result
  • Those who laugh at the Amma model and Tamil Nadu’s freebies don’t take into account that an engineering college student takes his free Amma laptop to the class without removing the Amma sticker on it. For the poor people of Tamil Nadu, freebies are a welcome gesture and they didn’t think they could expect anything better from any of the other parties

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