Pro-incumbency stops 2019-like roll out
- The decision of the DMK and the AIADMK to contest more seats in these elections than in 2019 has also yielded different results in terms of strike rates.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam alliance has recaptured power in Tamil Nadu after 10 years. According to trends available at the Election Commission of India’s website at 11 pm, the DMK alliance was winning or leading in 157 out of the 234 assembly constituencies (ACs). The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam alliance was winning or leading in 77 ACs. While the DMK-grouping’s victory is convincing and huge -- it almost has a two-third majority in the assembly -- it has fallen short of its 2019 Lok Sabha performance when it won 38 out of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the state. The AIADMK, while it has lost power, managed to prevent the kind of rout it faced in 2019.
What explains the moderation of tailwinds in the DMK’s favour? An HT analysis suggests that some amount of pro-incumbency sentiment in favour of the AIADMK government might have led to this result.
Both the DMK and the AIADMK contested a larger number of ACs (188 and 191) in 2021 than in 2019 (138 and 126), although as is often the case in the state, some of those ACs are contested by allies on DMK and AIADMK tickets (for instance, the DMK itself contested 173 seats this time). The 2019 results have been disaggregated at the AC level for this analysis. This is one of the factors behind the increase in vote share of both these parties. However, contested vote share numbers reveal a different picture. While the DMK’s contested vote share went down from 54.3% in 2019 to 46% in 2021, the AIADMK’s increased from 33.2% to 41.4%. A direct manifestation of this trend can be seen in the strike rates of the DMK and the AIADMK against each other. The DMK won every AC it contested against the AIADMK in 2019. This went down to 66% in this election. Both these parties performed better against each other’s allies than in direct contests. This underlines the fact that the state’s politics continues to revolve around these two parties. Here too, the trend between 2019 and 2021 is the same. While the DMK continues to have a sizable lead over the AIADMK, it has come down between 2019 and 2021. (See Chart 1)
The decision of the DMK and the AIADMK to contest more seats in these elections than in 2019 has also yielded different results in terms of strike rates. The AIADMK contested 81.6% of the ACs in 2021 compared to 55.3% in 2019. It increased its strike rate from 7.1% to 38.7%. The DMK contested 80.3% of the ACs in 2021 compared to 59.2% in 2019. But its strike rate went down from 97.8% to 67.6%. To be sure, the DMK’s strike rate is significantly higher than that of its allies in both 2019 and 2021, which rules out the argument that it would have performed better had it given more seats to its allies. In fact, it lost an opportunity to form a government in 2016 because it made the mistake of giving more seats to allies, especially the Congress. (See Chart 2)
One of the reasons behind the AIADMK’s relative comeback -- it has still lost the elections with a big margin between 2019 and 2021 -- could be the government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis. What this also means is that while voters are forthcoming in pushing back against the BJP’s ideological agenda, they care more about quality of governance when it comes to choosing their state government.