AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa sprung a surprise on her political rivals because she adopted a better alliance pattern, a not-so-loud campaign strategy and focused on practical issues that mattered to people across Tamil Nadu, say her party strategists.
Unlike DMK, which contested only 119 seats after giving 63 seats to Congress, Jayalalithaa fielded candidates in 160 constituencies, leaving 74 to her allies. She used a systematic approach by first securing a tie-up with Vijaykanth's DMDK, which turned out to be a masterstroke as the actor-politician was wooed by DMK and Congress too.
Vijayakanth, whose party had a 10% vote-share in previous elections, did for AIADMK what the Congress did for the DMK-led front. She gave 41 seats to DMDK.
Then, she turned her attention to the Left that had a 5% vote share. She gave 12 seats to CPI(M) and 10 to CPI - both enjoyed strong support in urban constituencies.
When she discovered that Vaiko's MDMK doesn't have enough support as claimed by him, she refused to go beyond her offer of 16 seats. A sulking Vaiko boycotted the polls, which proved a boon in disguise as Jayalalithaa concentrated on smaller parties that held sway over certain castes in southern and western Tamil Nadu.
Her strategy saw the incumbent DMK and AIADMK lock horns in 84 constituencies. The AIADMK then directly contested against Congress in 38 constituencies and against PMK in 21 constituencies.
Among the smaller parties that were with DMK, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) had to take on AIADMK in eight constituencies. Her party also faced Kongunadu Munetra Kazhagam (KMK), which grabbed a good chunk of votes in the 2009 polls, and the Indian Union Muslim League in six and three constituencies respectively.
She let DMDK take on the DMK in 18 constituencies and the Congress in 15 constituencies. During her campaign, Jayalalithaa focused on corruption charges against outgoing chief minister M Karunanidhi's family and DMK functionaries in different regions. She also highlighted widespread problems of price rise and lawlessness. These brought her good response.
But she avoided attacking the Congress at the Centre, confining herself to local issues.