AIADMK puts up a tough fight, retains bastions
Despite several factors working against it, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) put up a credible fight against the formidable Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam coalition in Tamil Nadu on Sunday.
The AIADMK alliance was winning or leading in 77 seats . In contrast, the DMK-led alliance won or was ahead in 157.
The results showed that despite being in power for 10 consecutive years, there was no strong anti-incumbency in this election. The party held on to its traditional bastions of the western region, which includes Coimbatore and Salem.
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Experts credited the AIADMK’s better-than-expected performance to outgoing chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami, who won from his home seat of Edappadi by 90,000 votes for the seventh time.
A relatively unknown regional leader from western Tamil Nadu, Palaniswami stunned his critics by holding together a bickering party in the aftermath of J Jayalalithaa’s death in 2016.
He solidified his position even in the dual leadership set-up with O Pannerselvam as his deputy, to keep out VK Sasikala who had hand picked him for the job.
Palaniswami gained popularity among the electorate with the government’s handling of the Covid-19 first wave in the state as Tamil Nadu quickly scaled up testing and brought in treatment protocols.
“This is an honourable loss for Palaniswami,” says R Kannan, biographer of former chief ministers M G Ramachandran and C N Annadurai.
The AIADMK’s gamble of introducing 10.5% reservation for Vanniyar caste- the core votebank of the Pattali Makkal Katchi seems to have had an impact as the party performed well in the north and western regions, which has a strong presence of Vanniyars.
The belt is also dominated by Gounders, a community Palaniswami belongs to. While the DMK dominated in Chennai, north, south and central regions, the AIADMK was able to perform well in its stronghold regions of western Tamil Nadu.
This election was also the BJP’s best performance in Tamil Nadu by far, winning one seat and leading in three till late on Sunday. The PMK won one and led in three out of 23 seats it contested--the second highest in the NDA alliance.
The BJP, which had no MPs and MLAs in Tamil Nadu, had pulled out all stops to make inroads into the Dravidian heartland where it is viewed as a north Indian party.
“Yes, BJP has made a beginning in Tamil Nadu,” said national general secretary and Tamil Nadu election in-charge CT Ravi. “We will work even harder from today to win the hearts and minds of Tamil makkal (people).”