The DMK is set to make a comeback in Tamil Nadu by dislodging chief minister and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa, exit polls have said.
The mood of voters in Tamil Nadu as captured by a host of pollsters indicates a penchant for change, much in line with recent electoral history in the state. However, opinion and exit polls in India have a chequered history with forecasts going hopelessly wrong in the past.
Almost all exit polls said the DMK-Congress combine will reach a majority in the 234-member house, by exploiting the anti-incumbency factor successfully. Three surveys predicted a defeat for the AIADMK but the fourth said Jayalalithaa would retain power comfortably, winning 139 of the 234 seats.
Jayalalithaa’s style of functioning, the public display of servility by all AIADMK men and women, and an “absent government” that led to a shutdown of factories, a halt in investment flows and subsequent increase in unemployment were the messages that the DMK leaders drove home successfully.
Poor handling of the Chennai floods by the Jayalalithaa government only added to people’s anger, despite a plethora of well-meaning welfare schemes that were bunched under Brand Amma.
More important than the successful Nammakku Naame campaign by DMK’s MK Stalin and high voltage canvassing by his 92-year-old father M Karunanidhi and half-sister Kanimozhi, was the collapse of the Third Front that analysts earlier anticipated would split the anti-incumbency vote.
Ramu Manivannan of the Madras University said people seem to have voted, if exit polls hold, for a change and for a party that was most likely to win. But, these are only exit polls with scope for errors and there still is a chance that it could be a hung assembly, he cautioned.
The youth and first-time voters, nearly one-fifth of the electorate, seemed to have voted for a change of government as they were concerned with rising unemployment and inflation rather than freebies.
The AIADMK supremo’s offer of freebies to voters did not make up for her frequent and prolonged retreats and failure to respond to last year’s Chennai floods.
In rural pockets, freebies for sure swayed voters, mostly women, but overall Jayalalithaa’s manifesto this time seems to have failed to enthuse the voters. This may also be due to the fact that expectations were raised so high – with promises of washing machine, fridge and air conditioner.
For the DMK, however, its promise of loan waiver for farmers and students seemed to have hit the target.