Friday, April 1, 2016

Can Amma pull off a miracle?

The country is set to enter another round of regional elections this month, in states that tend to be dominated by regional parties. The most interesting of these is Tamil Nadu, India's southern state that has been in the tight grip of the Dravidian parties for decades. Once again, it is a tight battle between the DMK and ruling AIADMK.

An interesting feature of elections in the state (and definitely not unique to the state) is the revolving door for parties. In election after election, the ruling party has been defeated by a huge margin. In the previous election, the AIADMK won over 80% of seats in the Assembly, unseating the DMK. Since then, Jayalalitha, also called Amma, has carved out a larger than life nanny state with her as the nanny - literally. From Amma canteens to Amma cement, she has pushed herself into the voter's homes (including the walls!). Will it work?

Some early opinion polls have predicted AIADMK coming back to power, but those are known to be unreliable. On the sidelines are the Congress - officially allied with the DMK but really a bit player - and the DMDK, which may play spoiler but will not really see any major victory, despite Captain Vijaykanth's hubris. Even further on the sidelines are the BJP and an assorted alphabet soup of small parties like the MMK and PMK. The BJP is not really focusing much on Tamil Nadu, and rightly so as it hardly has a base there, except in Kanyakumari.

The winner of this election will be important from the view point of the Rajya Sabha, although the composition of that will not change for a while. Nonetheless, a victory for the DMK will be somewhat of a boost for the Congress as it could tag along for the joyride and make matters worse in the Upper House. If the AIADMK pulls a victory and makes history in the process, its not-so-secret help to the BJP (Jayalalitha and PM Modi are known to be good friends) will be all the more welcome. 

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