On 2 May, 2021, the election results to the Tamil Nadu Assembly were announced which saw the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led Secular Progressive Alliance (SPA) successfully wresting power from the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). The SPA was constituted of 13 parties and managed to win 159 out of the 234 seats up for contest. Indian National Congress (INC), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi(VCK), Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India (Marxist)(CPI-M) were the other major partners of the DMK in the SPA. The AIADMK -led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was constituted of 10 parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Pattali Makkal Katchi(PMK). The alliance managed to win only 75 seats. M.K. Stalin, the leader of the DMK, took oath as the eighth Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu on 7 May, 2021. Edappadi K. Palaniswami was elected as the Leader of Opposition on 10 May after much opposition within his own party from rival O. Pannerselvam. The Palaniswami faction argued that he should be the Leader of Opposition owing to the party’s good performance in western Tamil Nadu, the region which is Palaniswami’s stronghold. The supporters of Pannerselvam held Palaniswami responsible for the party’s poor show in the other parts of the state .They believed that Palaniswami should take moral responsibility for the loss and offer the coveted position of the Leader of Opposition to Pannerselvam.
THE MAJOR TAKEAWAYS FROM THE RESULTS:-
1) DMK Storms Into Power:
The DMK won 133 out of the 173 seats it contested. It performed well in almost all parts of the state, including western Tamil Nadu, polling 37.7% of the total votes. The DMK was able to appeal to both the rural and the urban voters. The DMK alliance won 63 out of the 80 urban and semi-urban constituencies, and 96 out of the 154 rural constituencies. In contrast, the NDA could win only 58 rural constituencies. The DMK alliance’s performance in the northern and southern districts is remarkable. The DMK and Congress won 31 and 9 seats respectively in the southern districts of Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Tenkasi, Thoothkudi ,Ramanathapuram, Theni,Virudhunagar ,Sivaganga and Dindigul. The AIADMK, which considered the southern districts as its traditional bastion, could only manage to secure 15 seats in the region. The DMK also performed exceedingly well in the delta districts and Chennai regions. The alliance won 37 seats in the delta districts of Tiruchirapally, Thanjavur, Thiruvar, Nagapattinam , Karur, Ariyalur, Pudukkottai and Perambalur. The Congress was successful in winning 18 out of the 25 seats it contested. Congress Member of Parliament(MP) Karti P. Chidambaram did not fail to drive home the point that the Congress had a strike rate of 72%, which is more than all the other large parties. However, the Congress’ vote share of only 4.27% was not particularly impressive
Both the Communist parties won 2 seats each. The Communist parties will be sending representatives to the Tamil Nadu Assembly after a gap of 5 years. The Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam( MDMK) led by Vaiko won 4 out of the 6 seats it contested. The voices of the VCK and the MDMK will be heard in the Assembly after a gap of 15 years. The VCK, which is primarily a Dalit party, contested on its own pot symbol and managed to win 4 out 6 seats allotted to it. What is particularly impressive about the VCK is that it fielded candidates in non-reserved seats and was able to win two such seats. Aloor Shanavas and S.S. Balaji won from Nagapattinam and Tiruporur seats respectively, making VCK the first Dalit party to win non-reserved seats while contesting on its own symbol.
2) Defeated But Not Disgraced:
As per the results of the Lok Sabha election of 2019, the AIADMK was trailing in nearly 215 Assembly segments. It had only managed to win one out of the 39 Lok Sabha seats that were up for contest. The AIADMK defied most of the exit polls which had predicted a complete wipe-out of the party in 2021. The party was marred by infighting and a leadership crisis following the death of the party stalwart J. Jaylalitha. The party’s performance in the western districts of the state is commendable, with Palaniswami winning the Edappadi seat for a third consecutive time. The AIADMK was successful in completely sweeping the Coimbatore and Dharmapuri districts. Even though many prominent leaders of the AIADMK were successful in retaining their seats, 10 sitting Ministers like D. Jayakumar, K.C.Veeramani and K.T. Rajenthra Veeramani failed to win. The BJP was dictating the terms of the alliance and this high-handed approach by the Central BJP leadership was not lost on the electorate. The BJP was successful in winning 4 seats with a paltry 2.62% vote share. The PMK could win only 5 out of the 23 seats it contested, even after the party’s long- standing demand of exclusive reservation for the Vanniyar community within the existing Most Backward Classes quota was fulfilled. The reservation tactic seems to have backfired on the AIADMK alliance as it resulted in the counter-consolidation of non-Vanniyar and Scheduled Castes votes in favour of the DMK alliance.
3). Still A Two-horse Race:
The 2021 election once again showed that the smaller parties can only act as spoilers if they do not ally with any of the two Dravidian giants. Kamal Haasan , the only Makkal Needhi Maiam(MNM )candidate who had any realistic chances of winning, lost the Coimbatore (South ) seat to BJP leader Vanathi Srinivasan. The MNM could secure only 2.62% of the total votes. T.T.V. Dinakaran, the leader of Amma Makkal Munnettra Kazagam (AMMK) and Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in the outgoing assembly, also failed to win his seat.
Although AMMK got only 2.35% of the total votes, it hurt the NDA alliance’s prospects in at least 20 seats, like Andipatti, Rajapalayam, Sattur and Tenkasi, which are considered to be traditional AIADMK strongholds. The Naam Tamilar Katchi(NTK) led by Seeman got 6.58% of the total votes . Even though the NTK did not win a single seat, its brand of Tamil nationalistic politics seems to be growing popular among the youth. Captain Vijaykanth’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), which was thrown out of the AIADMK alliance at the last moment and contested as a part of an alliance with the AMMK, could only secure an abysmal 0.43 % vote share.
4). No place for Hindutva:
The BJP had wrongly held a belief that politics based on Dravidian identity has run its course. The BJP’s strategies of trying to use Rajnikanth as the face of the party in Tamil Nadu and mobilising certain castes in its favour failed miserably. Top Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS) leaders have pointed out that the temples in Tamil Nadu continue to be among the most visited temples in India. They believed that Dravidian rationalism is a thing of the past. The Hindutva party attempted to paint the DMK as an anti-Hindu and anti -Dalit party. However, such allegations had few takers. While it is true that the early Dravidian movement portrayed all religions as an Aryan import, it is also true that the Dravidian parties have mellowed down on their ‘atheist’ stance over the years. The leaders of both the DMK and the AIADMK are involved in religious festivals around the state. The DMK, on its part, claimed that the north Indian BJP did not care about Tamil culture and was trying to impose Hindi on the people of the state. The DMK leaders made holding of National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) a major issue in the election as they believed that it was imposing unfairly high standards on students from poor and marginalised backgrounds. It alleged that the AIADMK was a “puppet” of the BJP and it was actually the BJP which was running the state. In the end, the people of Tamil Nadu decided to reject the Hindutva forces and reaffirmed their faith in Dravidian politics.
5) A New King:
M.K. Stalin has emerged as the undisputed leader of Tamil Nadu. An understudy of his legendary father K. Karunanidhi for decades, Stalin is not a stranger to fierce political battles. He has been the face behind the incredible performances of the DMK in the Lok Sabha election of 2019 and the Assembly election of 2021. As such, Stalin becomes a very important player for the 2024 Lok Sabha election.