Friday, May 27, 2016

Breaking the Revolving Door

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all in this election cycle, and the one result that showed just how hollow all the opinion polls have been, is the return of Jayalalitha as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for a second consecutive term, a feat unmatched in 30 years, during which the state electorate kept alternating between massive victories to one side or the other. This time, while she retained a majority, the DMK (in alliance with the Congress) did manage to increase its numbers, but not by enough. Therefore, for the first time in a generation, a continuing CM will have to deal with an Opposition that is not very far off from the ruling party in terms of numbers in the Assembly.

Amma's victory can be attributed also to her crushing blow to the alphabet soup of smaller parties in the state, particularly the bravado of Captain Vijaykanth who tried to assemble his own third front, refusing to ally with any of the larger parties or even the BJP. His dreams of emerging a kingmaker in a historic election blew up in his face as Amma took all the votes he was looking for, reducing that alliance to nothing. Casteist outfits like the PMK, Eelam-based outfits such as Vaiko's, and the breakaway Manila Congress, all bit the dust from the Amma juggernaut. And that is perhaps the highlight of the election: a fractured polity that Amma was able to take to her advantage. It is highly likely that in the event of a usual bipolar contest, she would've been defeated. Indeed, in the UT of Puducherry, she was defeated by the DMK-Congress alliance.

Some would attribute her victory to the list of freebies she has offered, but really, that has become so common in the state that nobody really wins on the basis of it - it is secondary. So many parties have done it so often that it has lost its novelty. The victory goes to her shrewd political calculations, including her decision not to antagonize the Central Government and thus follow her own path. She has five years ahead of her, while the Opposition needs to wonder how they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. 

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