Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, TTV Dhinakaran: Will the challengers turn kingmakers in Tamil Nadu?

A recent survey gives the edge to DMK-Congress, but the smaller players could have a significant role.

 |  4-minute read |   28-07-2018
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In the 2016 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections, AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa proved everyone wrong. Most exit polls had predicted her defeat. Veda Nilayam, her Poes Garden residence, wore a forlorn look. 

However, Jayalalithaa bucked Tamil Nadu’s trend of voting out a party after every five years. She became the only chief minister to return to power for two consecutive terms, since her mentor Dr MG Ramachandran.  

With Jayalalithaa gone and Karunanidhi unwell, politics in Tamil Nadu is in a state of churn. With Jayalalithaa gone and Karunanidhi unwell, politics in Tamil Nadu is in a state of churn. (Photo: India Today)

Two years after the nail-biting elections and one-and-a-half years after Jayalalithaa’s demise, politics in Tamil Nadu has changed drastically. The entry of actor-turned politicians Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, and the resurgence of sidelined AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran have altered the contours of the Dravidian polity.  

The results of a survey conducted by Thanti TV, a Tamil regional channel, ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls have come as a dampener for the AIADMK. The popularity of the government is clearly on the decline.  

The survey was conducted in 32 districts of Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry between July 1 and July 10. A total of 8,250 people were asked for their opinions. A significant 41 per cent of respondents said they would vote for the DMK-Congress coalition if Lok Sabha polls were held today. The AIADMK is a distant second, with 25 per cent.

According to the survey, there is widespread dissatisfaction in the state with the performance of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. A massive 75 per cent of the respondents said the demonetisation decision of the central government was “not worth the effort”. The survey reflects that very little has changed for the saffron party since its 2014 debacle in Tamil Nadu.

In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP was riding high on the Narendra Modi wave. While it worked in the rest of the country, the south of Vindyas saw a different story. With a scant presence in Tamil Nadu, the BJP found it hard to connect with an average Tamil voter.

In the Dravidian heartland, the 2014 Parliamentary elections were remembered as a presidential battle — Lady vs Modi. Despite cobbling up a rainbow alliance that included several regional players, the BJP could win only 2 out of 39 Parliamentary seats. By winning 37 seats, the AIADMK became the third largest party in the Parliament.

TTV Dhinakaran's popularity is another cause of concern for the AIADMK. TTV Dhinakaran's popularity is another cause of concern for the AIADMK. (Photo: PTI/file)

Political analysts say the survey cannot be used to predict the BJP’s performance in the rest of the country, since the party has never had a significant presence in Tamil Nadu anyway. BJP Spokesperson Narayanan Tirupathi has dismissed the survey as premature and unscientific. “People of Tamil Nadu are very clever. They will not accept Rahul Gandhi as prime minister. With the election still a year away, how can the survey assume that the DMK and the Congress will be in an alliance and the BJP will contest alone? Tirupathi said.

The DMK camp, on the other hand, is euphoric. “The survey findings are a direct result of the failed governance at the Centre plus the false promises made when the BJP swept to power in 2014. Farmer distress continues, black money hasn't come back, people like Lalit Modi, Nirav Modi have escaped India. It's these false promises that have turned the people of Tamil Nadu against the BJP government. Parties that oppose the BJP will do well. The AIADMK has been subservient to THE BJP. They will suffer a worse defeat because of their quid pro quo arrangement,” said DMK Spokesperson Manu Sundaram.

Interestingly, the survey also gauges the mood of the voters on the newbie politicians —actor Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. Both of them are on an equal footing, with 5 per cent voters supporting them. 

Rangaraj Pandey, editor in chief of Thanti TV, observes that there will be competition between RajInikanth, Kamal Haasan and Dhinakaran to emerge as the alternative in Tamil Nadu’s bipolar politics. 

“As of now, Rajinikanth, Kamal Hasaan and TTV Dinakaran can be game changers or spoilers. They all have a 5 per cent vote share. This may increase to double digits when elections come. While Kamal and Rajini don’t see a surge of votes in their favour, for a very new party, a 5 per cent vote share is encouraging. Even if they can’t create a huge impact in TN’s political landscape, they might certainly emerge as the deciding factor in who can win and who can’t,” said Pandey.

Also read: A defence air ambulance and breach of secrecy: How help to AIADMK’s OPS leaves Nirmala Sitharaman defending herself



Lokpria Vasudevan Lokpria Vasudevan @lokpria

Principal Correspondent with India Today TV.

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