Stakes high for small parties too in first major election after death of Jaya, Karunanidhi

The outcome of the Lok Sabha election in 38 constituencies and the bypolls to 22 Assembly seats in Tamil Nadu, which will be known on Thursday, may not only shape the future of the State’s principal political players — the DMK and the AIADMK — but also that of smaller parties.

As this is the first time the two Dravidian majors have fought State-wide elections since the demise of DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi and AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa, the current electoral battle assumes significance for the leadership of the two parties — M.K. Stalin of the DMK and Edappadi K. Palaniswami and O. Panneerselvam of the AIADMK.

In respect of the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) and the Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK), the present elections are equally important. “If they demonstrate their strength now, they will be able to acquire much bargaining power vis-a-vis established parties when the State goes to the next elections,” says G. Palanithurai, former professor at the Department of Political Science and Development Administration of the Gandhigram Rural Institute.

Referring to signs of emergence of these forces in a considerable way, he says this only shows that the two principal parties do not offer much space to new and young faces, who instead tend to seek greener pastures in other parties, including the AMMK.

As for the two Dravidian majors, they chose to accommodate as many allies as possible this time, apparently out of the realisation of their current strength. Their leadership handled the exercise of seat sharing without much acrimony. Both the DMK and the AIADMK fielded their core members in 20 Lok Sabha constituencies each, while contesting all the 22 Assembly seats where bypolls were held. The tally of the DMK is one down in view of the cancellation of the poll process in the Vellore Lok Sabha constituency.

DMK spokesperson A. Saravanan feels Mr. Stalin has a proven track record, as he has been “ably demonstrating his leadership” for quite some time through outreach initiatives like ‘Nammakku Naame’ (in 2016). When it is pointed out that the DMK chief did not have any “resounding success” electorally during the 2016 Assembly polls, Mr. Saravanan says one’s success is measured not only by the factor of electoral politics but also by other aspects such as the manner in which the party is being run. The results, he hopes, will be yet “another feather in Mr. Stalin’s cap”.

AIADMK spokesperson Kovai Sathyan says his party had two tasks to perform this time – choosing the right ally at the national level and ensuring the continuance of the “Amma [Jayalalithaa] government” in the State. Relying on the findings of exit polls at the national level, which favour the BJP, an ally of the AIADMK, he says this goes to show that the decision of the collective leadership of the party has been ‘vindicated’. He is confident of his party getting through the byelections, paving the way for the current government in the State to complete its term.

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