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The power of one against many

The power of one against many

JAYALALITHA IMAGE க்கான பட முடிவு

Electoral alliances and seat-sharing adjustments have their advantages as well as disadvantages in a first-past-the-post system. In Tamil Nadu, while most of the opposition parties are more conscious of the advantages, the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam seems more mindful of the disadvantages of seat-sharing. Chief Minister and AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa set aside just seven of the 234 Assembly seats for allies; even in those seven, the alliance party candidates will technically be AIADMK members, as they will have to contest on the party’s Two Leaves symbol. But it is not clear whether it is confidence alone that has made Ms. Jayalalithaa spurn alliance proposals from major parties, including the Tamil Maanila Congress. She could be open to the possibility that the election may result in a hung Assembly and worried that alliance partners could switch sides after the results are out. The strategy appears to be one of maximising the yield by contesting as many seats as possible in the hope that a divided opposition will not be able to capitalise on any anti-incumbency sentiment among the voters. A similar strategy worked in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, with the AIADMK winning 37 of the 39 seats in the State. In the opposition camp, minor political parties, which usually rally behind either the DMK or the AIADMK in a general election, have tried to create an alternative. Most significantly, the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam led by actor-politician Vijayakant has decided to assume the leadership of a third front that includes parties such as the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam of Vaiko, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and the two Left parties. The TMC, after failing to strike an alliance with the AIADMK, is also now part of this front, giving it a semblance of viability.
Ms. Jayalalithaa will be emulating her political mentor, AIADMK founder M.G. Ramachandran, if she returns to power. Since 1984, when MGR came back as Chief Minister despite being confined to a hospital bed in the United States throughout the campaign, no one has been able to retain power in the State. On issues such as prohibition, she is tailing the opposition, offering to introduce it in phases after all the opposition parties made this a major election point. Also, the go-it-alone strategy will not work as well as it did in the Lok Sabha election. While it was unable to bring the DMDK into its fold, and only has the Congress as a major ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam led by former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi may be still able to tap into the anti-incumbency vote by virtue of being the largest opposition party by far. Parties such as the DMDK and the Pattali Makkal Katchi, with a rural support base similar to that of the AIADMK, could cut into both the anti-establishment vote and the pro-AIADMK vote. Polarisation will work to the advantage of the DMK. But Ms. Jayalalithaa is banking on the multiplicity of her opponents in the first-past-the-post system.

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