New Delhi: In an election that was his to lose, Edappadi Palaniswami surprised many and ensured that the AIADMK fought hard to not only retain its stronghold in western Tamil Nadu, but also be ready to play the role of a strong opposition to the M.K. Stalin-led DMK.
In the first assembly election in Tamil Nadu, without the star power of former chief minister J. Jayalalithaa to help the party, many expected the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) to face a huge loss. The anti-incumbency factor was also expected to go against the party. Yet, the AIADMK, led by Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami held its own.
The DMK and its allies had expected to touch the 180 mark, in an assembly that has a strength of 234. Yet as of 9.30pm Sunday, the DMK and its allies had managed to win only 159 seats. The AIADMK and allies stood at 76.
While the DMK is set to form government — the party was leading in 132 seats at 9.30pm Sunday, according to the Election Commission and the majority mark is 118 — the AIADMK is far from over, as many had expected it to be after this election.
Tamil Nadu went to polls on 6 April, in a single-phase election. According to the Election Commission website, at 9.30 pm Sunday, AIADMK had a vote share of 33.5 per cent, compared to the DMK’s 37.7 per cent vote share.
While party members pointed to the anti-incumbency factor, and the alliance with the BJP, as reasons for the defeat, most expressed support and appreciation for the “OPS [deputy chief minister O. Panneerselvam]-EPS” leadership.
‘Wouldn’t call this a defeat’
“Everyone thought if the results were bad, [that is if the AIADMK lost this election], the AIADMK would be finished. But these results clearly show that it will be a strong opposition and is here to stay,” said Dr. P Muthulkumar, head of department, political science, Presidency College, Chennai.
Party leaders too expressed satisfaction with the way the AIADMK had stood up to other parties.
Speaking to ThePrint, Aspire Swaminathan, AIADMKs IT Wing head explained that in a democracy like India, winning and losing was all part of the game.
“Considering there were talks of 180, 190 and even 200 seats [being won by the DMK]… that has gone wrong. The DMK at this point has not even managed to get 160 seats,” he pointed out, adding, “I wouldn’t call this a defeat as we had an anti-incumbency factor working against us. As opposition, we will continue to serve the people,” said Swaminathan.
Swaminathan also expressed trust in the party leadership.
“CM Edappadi Palaniswami is perceived as a part of everyone’s family. He is very simple, straightforward and innocent, which is what has led to his mass appeal,” he explained.
While some party members, such as senior AIADMK leader C. Ponnaiyan, were less complacent about the result, there was still faith in the EPS-OPS leadership.
Ponnaiyan gave less credit to the anti-incumbency factor having cost the party its majority in the state, because according to him, the party had done a lot for farmers, self-help groups and the women and youth in the state.
The election results, therefore, need to be properly analysed, he said.
“Those from the Scheduled Castes, Muslims and Christians openly declared they would not vote for BJP or anyone allying with them, so that was expected,” he said.
When questioned about the AIADMK leadership, however, he said that the USP of the party was its well-recognised and respected symbol of the two leaves, and the popularity of former chief ministers M.G. Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa, which continued to get them votes. However, he said, “the leadership of OPS and EPS is commendable. It shows oneness of mind and thought.”
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)