How DMK's Tamil nationalism and welfare policy poll planks led to INDIA bloc's win in the state - Hindustan Times
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How DMK's Tamil nationalism and welfare policy poll planks led to INDIA bloc's win in the state

Jun 07, 2024 01:13 AM IST

Welfare schemes, a strong emphasis on Tamil culture and identity, and the strong anti-BJP sentiment in the state cemented INDIA bloc's win in the state

Voters in Tamil Nadu validated the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) identity politics focusing on Tamil nationalism, Dravidianism, and appeasement, helping the INDIA bloc sweep all 39 parliamentary constituencies. The DMK, Congress, and four other allies left little for the All-India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with both parties putting up an impressive show.

Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK chief MK Stalin during a rally in support of party candidate from Chennai North Kalanidhi Veeraswamy ahead of Lok Sabha elections, in Chennai, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (PTI Photo)(PTI04_16_2024_000053A)(PTI) PREMIUM
Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK chief MK Stalin during a rally in support of party candidate from Chennai North Kalanidhi Veeraswamy ahead of Lok Sabha elections, in Chennai, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (PTI Photo)(PTI04_16_2024_000053A)(PTI)

The coalition also managed to win the seat in Puducherry in Tamil Nadu proving Chief Minister MK Stalin’s oft-quoted slogan ‘Nalai Namadhu, Napatthum Namadhu’ which translates into ‘Tomorrow is ours and so are the 40 (seats in Tamil Nadu). The decisive win comes for the DMK-led INDIA bloc for the second time in a row after the alliance reported a thumping win even in the 2019 election. “The people of Tamil Nadu have reposed faith in the DMK yet again. It is a pro-incumbency vote that assures us of our idealogy and our policies,” said Saravana Annadurai, national spokesperson of the DMK.

Welfare schemes, Tamil nationalism

At the crux of this victory was the success of the welfare schemes implemented by Stalin and his government. The free bus rides for women and the 1,000 monthly allowance are largely credited for the DMK leading the victory in Tamil Nadu, its leaders suggest. The welfare schemes, ostensibly the CM’s mastermind, have been likened to the pan-India super hit film Bahubali.

The women voters who were earlier the AIADMK’s stronghold perhaps have shifted to the DMK because the State Planning Commission report released early this year suggests that more than 50% of the women availing of the free bus ride scheme were those aged over 40 years. On the other hand, many women reported a reduction in their household expenses because of 1,000 handed over to them at the turn of every month. Tamil Nadu, according to research and ratings firm Crisil said that nearly two percent of the state’s Gross State Domestic Product was allocated to social welfare schemes in the financial year 2024.

Apart from social justice, fervour for the Tamil language and Tamil culture still seems to be a strong talking point for voters in Tamil Nadu. “The people of Tamil Nadu are not malleable, unlike others in southern India. Their identity is not fractured and they are still proud Dravidians. So, it will take a long while for any other party to make inroads into the state without an alliance,” said NP Chekutty a senior political commentator who writes on Kerala and Tamil Nadu politics.

Anti-BJP stance

The sweeping victory by the DMK is also being read as an anti-Modi wave in the state by many, particularly those siding with the Tamil parties. Despite the Prime Minister’s dozen-odd trips to the state in the last year, the BJP has not managed to win even in Coimbatore where its president K Annamalai had contested from.

Kalanidhi Veerasamy, the DMK candidate from North Chennai said, “In the last year, the PM made several trips to Tamil Nadu but never gave us what we wanted. We won because we made him the target of our campaign. We had requested an AIIMS in Madurai. However, that was never granted. The people have voted against vendetta politics.”

Political analyst Kishore K Swamy said that the PM’s remarks on removing the 50 percent ceiling on reservations for backward classes and scheduled castes among others in the northern states could have affected the election in TN where the OBCs and scheduled castes account for more than 70% of the population.

In addition, Annamalai’s fiery speeches targeting the opposition have distanced many fence-sitters from the BJP. “Annamalai too doesn’t understand the Tami psyche. To win over ordinary people, you need to have a more persuasive attitude. You need a credible argument that would win over the minds and hearts of the people. Not just Modi or BJP,” Chekutty said.

“It is a referendum that any national party cannot win in Tamil Nadu without an alliance with a regional player,” he said.

Deepika Amirapu is a freelance journalist based in Hyderabad. Each week, Southern Lights examines the big story from one of the five states of South India.

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