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The ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu has neatly overturned the 2011 defeat in Local body polls. Led efficiently by chief minister and party president, M K Stalin, the DMK has taken sweet revenge, having lost elections to all 10 mayoral posts in 2011, by bagging all 21 mayoral posts up for grabs now.

When last reports last came in, the DMK had registered emphatic victories in the two other stages of the local body polls, panchayat unions and town panchayats, as well. It must be remembered that the AIADMK under J Jayalalithaa had won 585 of Corporation councillor posts as against only 130 of the DMK, and 90 municipal chairpersons posts as against 23 of the DMK, in 2011. In 2022, 11 years later, the DMK-led alliance has triumphed in 75 to 80 percent of these posts. The 2011 results have been reversed almost in toto. Of the 138 municipalities, the DMK has wrested control in 132, leaving only 3 to the AIADMK and 3 to other parties. The DMK has also secured wins in over 400 of the 489 Town Panchayats.

The opposition party, AIADMK, must not only do soul-searching but also do leader-searching as former chief minister Eddappadi Palanisamy has been the main stumbling block in the party

Therefore, the victory of the DMK must be seen as spectacular, coming from zero in mayoral posts to 21 now, while on the other hand, the results should be seen as devastating for the AIADMK.

The opposition party, AIADMK, must not only do soul-searching but also do leader-searching as former chief minister Eddappadi Palanisamy has been the main stumbling block in devising an alternate strategy to counter the DMK, having led his party to five successive defeats at the hands of the DMK. From 2019, when the AIADMK lost 13 by-elections to the State Assembly besides a near washout in the Lok Sabha polls; losses even in rural local body elections held later in 2019 though the DMK was traditionally on weaker ground in rural areas as compared to the AIADMK; the defeat in the 2021 Assembly polls, and another blow in elections to local bodies in nine districts in late 2021, and today’s results in polls to urban local bodies.

Palaniswamy has been more keen to protect his own chair, thereby refusing to bring back partymen who have kept aloof from the party over the years as also supporters of V K Sasikala, Jayalalithaa’s close aide, besides the party led by Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran, the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK). Palanisamy is worried that the entry of Sasikala and her supporters, besides Dhinakaran and others, will weaken his hold over the organisation. Again, Palaniswamy has been guilty of pursuing casteist politics, reducing the organisation led by MGR and Jayalalithaa to a mere Gounder party (a backward caste essentially in the western belt of the State, particularly Salem, Coimbatore, Erode and adjoining districts). His strategy of wooing the Vanniyars with an exclusive quota for them too triggered a backlash from other communities. Palaniswamy has also been accused of continuing a cosy relationship with the BJP to stave off a slew of corruption cases that are expected to be filed by the Tamil nadu police in the next few months over amassment of wealth during the AIADMK rule. Palaniswamy, like a drowning man clutching at a straw, has tried to keep the BJP as an ally, although in the 2022 local body polls, the BJP and AIADMK decided to contest separately following differences over seat-allocation. Even then, Palaniswamy and his aides have been supporting the BJP on various issues facing the State, thereby making it clear that the two parties had not ended their alliance. In fact, the AIADMK has clarified that it was still part of the BJP-led NDA.

Palaniswamy and his aides have been supporting the BJP on various issues facing the State, thereby making it clear that the two parties had not ended their alliance

On the other hand, the DMK has been keen to retain its allies right from 2019, making sure that the secular alliance was strong and united, thus reaping benefits both for the DMK and its partners. The AIADMK, instead of trying to strengthen its alliance, has lost almost all of them. The DMDK walked out of the alliance before the Assembly polls, while the PMK quit the AIADMK bandwagon after the Assembly elections. Officially, it is without the BJP too as a poll partner. The AIADMK is now left only with the Tamil Maanila Congress, and a couple of minor parties.

With the AIADMK not willing to let go of the BJP, the DMK continues to benefit from a consolidation of the minority votes as well as secular votes in favour of its alliance. Parties like the Congress and the Left too have contributed to this message of communal amity and secularism that the DMK-led alliance holds out to the people of Tamil Nadu. The pro-BJP stand of the AIADMK has made it easy for mobilisation by the secular parties in Tamil Nadu.


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