As Tamil Nadu votes in the Assembly election today, a poll of polls predicts a sweeping victory for the DMK-led alliance, propelled by a Dravidian, pro-autonomy, federalism plank against the BJP’s push for single-party rule in the country.
The Times Now-C Voter poll gives the opposition camp 158 of the 234 seats as against 65 for AIADMK-BJP alliance. In 2016, the incumbent AIADMK had won 136 seats.
The APT Research Group’s poll for Puthiya Thalaimurai TV gives a clear mandate to the DMK alliance, predicting it to take 151-158 seats as compared to the AIADMK camp’s 76-83.
Junior Vikatan, Tamil Nadu’s most popular news magazine, gives the DMK alliance 163 seats, the AIADMK combine 52, and marks 16 seats as being locked in a close fight.
Nakkeeran, another magazine, projects as many as 172 seats for the opposition alliance, 22 for the AIADMK camp and puts down 40 seats as closely contested. The Reporter news magazine gives the DMK alliance 135 seats.
The poll of polls, an average of opinion polls, thus gives the DMK alliance 155 to 160 seats, the AIADMK front 50, leaving about 20 seats as being too close to call.
The heated campaign for this election was grounded as much in ideological matters as in emotive subjects such as language and culture.
The AIADMK-BJP combine’s campaign was led by prime minister Narendra Modi and chief minister EK Palaniswami. Modi harped on dynastic rule, pointing to the bid of DMK leader MK Stalin to be chief minister like his father M Karunanidhi. It may not have cut much ice, however, as a large number of candidates cutting across party lines is dynasts. The anti-corruption rhetoric might not have made a big impact either as there are charges against leaders of every party.
The late AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa’s aide VK Sasikala returned from prison just in time for the election but didn’t go for an expected clash with Palaniswami. She stayed away from the polls, supposedly on the advice of the BJP whose support she needs to be acquitted in several cases filed by the Income Tax department and the Enforcement Directorate.
Her nephew TTV Dhinakaran, though, has put up an impressive fight on behalf of his party, the AMMK, which may spring a few surprises, especially in southern Tamil Nadu. As could the actor Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam. Some opinion polls give him victory in Coimbatore South, edging out Vanathi Srinivasan of the BJP. Even if he were to be his party’s lone MLA, he could use his position as a stepping stone for a bigger role in 2026.
The AIADMK, on the other hand, has struggled for support, not least with minority communities as its ally, the BJP, has insisted the Modi government would implement the new citizenship law, which the AIADMK is opposed to. The BJP has also promoted an anti-conversion law even though its ally is against it, having withdrawn the controversial law after the 2004 poll debacle.
The AIADMK, thus, is in danger of falling between two boats as it seeks to maintain its Dravidian identity while ideologically pulling in the direction of the BJP.