Political realities on the ground in Tamil Nadu in the run up to the May 16 assembly elections are unprecedented. The state is used to witnessing a two-way contest between the two major Dravidian parties, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham(DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(AIADMK).
However, a multi-cornered election is now a reality and the desire for change among the people is more than visible. Though people are desperate for relief from the DMK and the AIADMK, the conditions are not ripe and there is a sense of desperation and helplessness among the people craving for change.
The need for change arises from the complete decay of major Dravidian parties. But it must be said that the real alternative for the DMK and the AIADMK has not emerged fully due to failure and shortcomings in the combination of forces or parties aspiring to present themselves as an alternative. To be precise, the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK)-People’s Welfare Allaince(PWA) has not emerged as an alternative to the DMK and AIADMK due to poor selection and quality of leadership. DMDK-PWA combine has not done well with the choice of Vijayakanth as its chief ministerial candidate. Vijayakanth lacks composure and decorum and hence, the Third Front as an alternative has not bloomed sufficiently to present itself as an alternative to either the DMK or the AIADMK.
The present situation can throw up several possible scenarios. First, there is a likelihood of the AIADMK bagging more seats than the rest and retaining power. There is also a chance of the DMK getting an edge over the AIADMK, but falling short of the required seats to form the government on its own. DMK has been making a slow but steady comeback but not enough to form the government on its own or secure absolute majority.
It is true and visible that the AIADMK has been gradually losing its way despite its strong hold among the rural population. It has therefore chosen the much tested path of more freebies for the people. Under the present circumstances, if the Third Front manages to bag a few seats and the Ramadoss-led Pattali Makkal Katcchi (PMK) secures some seats, it will result in a hung assembly. This may also demonstrate that the people are more than ready for change and it cannot happen in a single step.
The desire for change and the absence of political alternative are the harsh realities of present-day Tamil Nadu. The poor leadership and weak co-ordination among the DMDK-PWA are factors that have postponed and delayed the potential transition in the political arena.
What is tragic about the politics in Tamil Nadu is that the people are trapped between the AIADMK and DMK with no immediate alternative in sight. They are forced to choose between the parties that are fully responsible and have an undeniable share in all that we consider as evils of politics in the state. This anger or disillusionment may also result in a hung assembly. What is wrong with a hung assembly when people are searching for an alternative? It is a step forward, not an end itself. When we desire to fly, we must first learn to crawl. People of Tamil Nadu may just do that when they vote on Monday.
Ramu Manivannan is a professor at Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Madras