There are quite a few spoilers on the Tamil Nadu election scene, who might not win seats but could cut into votes of the two major Dravidian political parties – the AIADMK and the DMK.
The first is the flamboyant TTV Dinakaran, nephew of Jayalalitha’s aide Sasikala who has emerged as a new factor.
TTV, as he is known, has great potential to sabotage the chances of the AIADMK and even pull down the Edapadi government. He was a low profile leader during Jaya’s time and he drew his strength from aunt Sasikala.
Jaya had expelled him from the party for alleged anti-party activities in 2011 but he was re-admitted by Sasikala after Jaya’s death and made joint General secretary.
He played a crucial role after Sasikala went to jail in 2017. He tried to take over the party but failed and in the last two years he has floated his own outfit called Amma ADMK. He even won Jaya’s Assembly constituency R.K.Nagar last year as an independent.
TTV is claiming the legacy of Jayalalitha while chief minister Edapadi Palaniswamy and deputy chief minister O Paneersevam are also claiming it. DMK leader TKS Elangovan points out that “these elections will decide who gets Jayalalitha’s committed vote bank.”
While TTV is facing allegations of bribing voters in the RK Nagar constituency, he has managed to wean away a section of the cadre. Dinakaran has a distinct disadvantage because he has got the pressure cooker as his party’s symbol while the AIADMK have got the two leaves symbol, which is identified with Jayalaliltha.
Dinakaran, who belongs to the dominant Thevar community in the South, could hurt the AIADMK’s traditional stronghold by wooing the influential community to his side. If he succeeds in getting Thevar votes it will hurt Panneerselvam who also belongs to the community.
Secondly, even after Jaya’s death most of the AIADMK cadres are said to be loyal to Sasikala’s family, as they had distributed patronage to many workers earlier.
Thirdly, TTV is said to have unlimited money to spend in elections. In the RK nagar bye polls he was alleged to have distributed huge sums to the voters.
Fourthly, TTV has been working for the past one year with the sole aim of throwing out the EPS government. His party candidate from Perambur Vetrivel claims that “in case of drubbing for the AIADMK in the ensuing polls, TTV would like to get rid of the current leadership of Edapadi Palaniswamy and O. Pannerselvam and take over the party.”
Actor turned politician Kamal Hasan is yet another player who might be a spoiler. He is a Tamil superstar known for his excellent performance. He has acted in many hit movies and has thousands of fan clubs. He launched his party Makkal Needi Maiyam last year promising to provide clean politics.
Kamal, as he is affectionately called, is facing his first acid test in these elections. Though people come to see him at public meetings and listen to him because of the mystique surrounding a film star, it is not clear whether he can convert crowds into votes.
CPI leader D Raja points out that “This is where his test lies.” Secondly, he has not had adequate time to build his party. Thirdly, he has not attracted any big leaders to his party. Kamal has taken centre-stage talking about change and the need for a clean and corruption-free government. There is a section of people who are looking for an alternative and he is eyeing this section. He might also attract the aspirational youth who look up to their idol.
Kamal Hasan is only campaigning for his candidates and not contesting the Lok Sabha polls. His party is contesting 37 seats to the Lok Sabha and 15 for the Assembly and is depending on his novelty and mystique to get votes. He has been hobnobbing with regional satraps like Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal. The Dravidian parties as well as the national parties have not taken him seriously.
“He might not win many seats or get huge vote share but he has the potential to cut into the votes of other parties,” says Elangovan. He has promised to resolve the water crisis, provide equal pay for women. Interestingly, he has declared that his aim is the 2021 Assembly polls. Yet another spoiler is the Tamil nationalist party called Naam Tamizhar Katchi.
The NKT chief Seeman wants to project the party as an alternate to the Dravidian parties. It also focuses on Sri Lankan Tamils. It is contesting all the seats but is not expected to win any. It could only be a spoiler. It secured just over one per cent votes in 2016 Assembly polls.
The party’s vote bank is basically of those disenchanted with the AIADMK, DMK and the two national parties. This party of ‘angry youth’ could increase its vote share due to a variety of reasons such as anti-Dravidian mood among a section of youth and improved cadre building.
The NKT has promoted progressive politics like fielding equal number of women, transgenders, those with physical disabilities and Dalit candidates in general constituencies. Only on May 23 we will know how much these spoilers have hurt frontline parties.
(The writer is a veteran journalist and author.)