1) 2-Leaves Symbol In All Constituencies
The two most recognizable symbols in Tamil Nadu are the ‘two-leaves’ symbol of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the ‘rising sun’ symbol of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. In the absence of a strong wave against the ruling party, votes were swung on the basis of symbol. Jaya’s smart move to force her meager allies (7 seats in all) to contest on the ‘two-leaves’ symbol gave her the edge over the DMK alliance which gave 41 seats to the Congress, and another 17 seats to other smaller Muslim and Dalit parties. In a direct contest between ‘two-leaves’ and ‘rising sun’ the DMK appeared to have had the edge, as analysis of the numbers showed.
2) Prohibition Not Really An Election Issue After All!
Jayalalithaa may have been criticised for ignoring demands for Prohibition before polls, but the issue does not seem to have been one over which the electorate voted. Women, the core constituency of the AIADMK, appeared to have backed their leader solidly. According to C Lakshmanan from the Madras Institute of Development Studies, caste and cash were the only two factors in these elections.
“Despite the widespread corruption, and demands for prohibition, none of these were reflected in the way that people voted,” he said, adding that both the DMK and the AIADMK were very similar in their approaches to the election. Jayalalithaa’s cautious approach to the Prohibition bogey, where she repeatedly stated in campaigns that she would implement Prohibition in a phased manner, appears to have given even tipplers the impression that she would not ensure a dry state. The DMK, on the other hand, promised total Prohibition in the southern state if voted to power.
3) Money Power
Over Rs 105 crores of cash was seized in the run-up to elections by the Election Commission, of which Rs 48 crores was returned to rightful owners on submission of documents. But this haul appeared to be just the tip of the iceberg, as reports flooded in, especially in the last two days before polling, of large sums of cash being paid to voters as bribe. In many parts of the state, the AIADMK appeared to have paid as much as Rs 5000 per family.
The DMK too paid for votes, averaging around Rs 250 per vote, but in constituencies where the party strongmen contested, the cash flow was much more. Speaking of the complaints against the AIADMK for distributing money, N Sathiyamoorthy, Director of the Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation, said that even though there were complaints of cash collection in places like Siruthavoor, where there was even video evidence of money changing hands, the Election Commission failed to do anything concrete.
“The Election Commission needs to take steps to make the election transparent, and create a level playing field not only for parties and leaders, but also at the candidate level,” he said. DMK Treasurer MK Stalin too has warned that the party would move court to get ‘justice’ on the issue of cash distribution unless the ECI took firm action. Speaking to the media post results, former union minister Dayanidhi Maran of the DMK said, “The people’s mandate was for the DMK, but the crores of rupees spent by Jayalalitha forced the people to vote for them.”
4) DMK’S Severe Crisis Of Credibility
The battle in 2016 was clearly between the two main Dravidian parties in the state, with the Third Front, the Pattali Makkal Katchi and the Bharatiya Janata Party all being demolished. Despite simmering anti-incumbency and discontent on the ground, the DMK was unable to cash in on it, since people had not forgotten the land grabbing and rowdyism of the previous DMK regime between 2006 and 2011. The DMK was unable to convince voters that a repeat of the same would not happen.
5) Targeted Freebies & Discounts
Last mile undecided votes were shoved the AIADMK way, with the lure of 50% discount on scooters for working women and the prospect of more gold for mangalsutras (‘Thaalikku Thangam’) scheme. Most other promises made in the manifestos of both parties were similar in nature. “The people have been depoliticised, which is why they would support Jayalalithaa, who is not approachable, and continues to offer freebies like motorbikes if people voted for her. This victory for the AIADMK is also partly because of the dissatisfaction towards Karunanidhi,” he said.
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