Amma breaks the jinx, LDF turns the cycle
While anti-incumbency was a major factor in Kerala, in Tamil Nadu it was a non-factor
Hardnews Bureau Delhi
Kerala showed a clear anti-incumbency trend as it voted out the Oommen Chandy government out of power. The three political formations campaigning in Kerala adopted various strategies during the elections. Initially, the LDF attempted to capitalise on the scam-ridden incumbent government, targeting Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s government over the solar and bar bribery scandals. Soon it changed tack and began to project itself as the best choice for Kerala’s development, echoing the BJP strategy. Indeed, Kerala will stick to its record of yo-yo politics, picking the CPM-led Left Democratic Front over Congress-led UDF, which ruled the state for the last five years.
A closer analysis reveals that all the political heavyweights have won decisive victories in Kerala. Oommen Chandy has retained his seat in Puthupally. Ramesh Chennithala, the erstwhile Home Minister, has also clinched a decisive victory from Haripad, which has been his traditional stronghold. VS Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan also sailed home to comfortable victories. Kerala was also one state where the strategy to employ celebrities as candidates backfired spectacularly. Cricketer Sreesanth received a drubbing as he lost by a massive number of votes. Only actor M Mukesh, who had represented the LDF in the Kollam constituency in Kollam district, was elected with a comfortable buffer of 17,000 votes. Fellow actor PV Jagadish Kumar, who had played Appukuttan to Mukesh’s Mahadevan in Hariharnagar, lost the election in Pathanapuram constituency in Kollam. Interestingly, Jagadish had been in something of a star war, squaring off against the actor and sitting MLA KB Ganesh Kumar of the LDF, as well as Raghu Damodaran (Bheeman Raghu) of the NDA. Raghu had to join Jagadish in the loser’s corner as well. Another interesting result is that of the CPI candidate from Pattambi Muhammad Muhassin for whom JNU leader Kanhaiya Kumar had campaigned extensively. Muhassin won by securing a staggering 64,025 votes.
Regarding vote share, there have been significant changes in the electoral fortunes of various parties. The BJP has increased its vote share from last elections and has now garnered 10.6 per cent of the vote share. The BJP also opened its account in the Kerala Assembly as BJP veteran O. Rajagopal won his seat by a considerable number of votes. Interestingly, the vote share for CPM has actually gone down from its previous 28.18 percent to 26.4 percent. Be that as it may, the LDF has crossed the 90 mark without much struggle and will form the next government in God’s own country.
The critical question weighing on everyone’s mind is: who will be the next chief minister? Will it be VS Achuthanandan who is now 93-years-old, or, will it be 72-year-old Vijayan who has served the longest as Kerala CPM state committee secretary from 1998 to 2015. This is a vexing question which will be answered soon.
The neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu has bucked the anti-incumbency trend and handed J Jayalalithaa another tenure as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. For the first time in 32 years, the state of Tamil Nadu has handed a party a consecutive term. Ahead of the election, Jayalalithaa promised to gift voters cellphones and other freebies -- her last election campaign five years ago pledged mixer-grinders to housewives. Her Amma canteens, which provide highly subsidised food, have been a runaway success. While corruption was one of the hotly-debated topics in Tamil Nadu in the run-up to the polls, the results imply the electorate of Tamil Nadu has accepted the high court verdict acquitting Jayalalithaa in a multi-crore disproportionate assets case. She was earlier convicted by a special court in Bengaluru on charges of amassing assets disproportionate to her income while she was the Tamil Nadu chief minister during 1991-1996. Further, the DMK's linkage with several scams, mainly the multi-crore 2G spectrum allocation scam, also boosted Jayalalithaa's chances in the absence of a credible opposition.
The aura of Jayalalithaa, or Amma as she is fondly called, managed to tide over the perception of misgovernance in the state. Amid claims that governance had taken a back seat in Tamil Nadu and that the state's economy was marred by slow growth and development, it appears that the voter has ignored those theories safely remembering the social schemes and freebies doled out by the outgoing government. It appears the Supreme Court's observation that a freebie “influences all people” and “shakes the root of free and fair elections to a great extent” did not find many takers in Tamil Nadu.
Further, AIADMK's liberal stance on introducing prohibition in the state seems to have played in its favour. While the incumbent party had promised introduction of prohibition in a phased manner and was liberal in its approach on the issue, almost all other parties had promised the introduction of the policy in one go. Lack of a credible and solid face in the opposition is also believed to have played a part in Jayalalithaa's successive victory. DMK chief M Karunanidhi is now old --- 93 to be precise and wheelchair-bound --- and he was probably rejected as a future CM by the state's electorate. Also, his son and DMK heir apparent MK Stalin too failed to invoke trust in his leadership skills, especially in the wake of DMK's internal crisis.
A closer look at the statistics is quite revealing. Even though the vote share of the DMK increased from 22.39 per cent to 31.5 per cent, the AIADMK too upped the ante and increased its vote share from 38.40 per cent to 40.8 per cent. One of the notable losers of the elections has to be Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) whose star campaigner Captain Vijayakanth lost his deposit. His alliance with the People’s Welfare Front also came a cropper. The BJP too failed to make any inroads as it got a mere 2.8 per cent of the vote share. Since this was a largely personality-driven election, the Tamil Nadu electorate has made it clear that it prefers Amma, 68, over the Periyar-spouting Karunanidhi, not really promising great hopes of a promising future to the people at 93.