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The DMK has been able to send across a strong message of women empowerment in the party and in the administration with 11 of the new 20 Mayors being women, breaking the AIADMK’s traditional women votebank carefully cultivated by MGR and Jayalalithaa.

In most elections in the past, the AIADMK had a clear lead over the DMK in terms of the women votebank. With more than half the electorate being women, the AIADMK held an edge here. Which is why Jayalalithaa was shocked when for the first time, the share of women voters dropped sharply in 1996, triggered by the ostentatious display of wealth, particularly jewellery, on the roads of southern Chennai during the marriage of Jayalalithaa’s adopted son Sudhakaran. This led to the party’s rout in the 1996 elections. However, in later years, Jayalalithaa managed to recover the vote-bank.

In the past, the DMK had always struggled to get a majority among women voters. MGR’s refrain of ‘Thaaykulam’ (Motherhood) which women seemed to like, ensured that MGR drew enough crowds/family audiences for his films while the AIADMK nurtured this vote-bank.

For the first time in the history of the DMK, Stalin has been able to reverse this trend and ensure good response from women voters. Stalin is seen as affable and not over-bearing as compared to the image of the average DMK chieftain in interior pockets of Tamil Nadu. Even if orchestrated, a series of images with women and children seeking Selfies with him during election campaigns and even public functions, has endeared him to women, especially the younger, educated lot.

In the past, the DMK had always struggled to get a majority among women voters. MGR’s refrain of ‘Thaaykulam’ (Motherhood) which women seemed to like, ensured that MGR drew enough crowds/family audiences for his films while the AIADMK nurtured this vote-bank.

A logical progression of this has been the new enthusiasm among youngsters to seek party tickets for posts in the local bodies, buoyed by the representation of 50 per cent posts for women. Party old-timers have been surprised to see an upsurge from the age-groups of the twenties and early thirties for tickets. Even though several of them could be from traditional DMK families, this is the first time a large number of women have come forward to contest elections and seek posts. This is a sea-change in the DMK. With nearly half of the newly-elected 9,000 councillors from urban areas being DMK women, cutting across the State, the DMK has achieved a breakthrough in women participation, especially the youth. That a large number of them are educated, several of them being graduates, post-graduates and even from the IT industry, is a huge plus for the DMK.

The surprise elevation of a 28-year-old woman as Chennai Mayor has triggered a buzz across the State that the DMK could not achieve in the last 20 years. Visuals of 11 women occupying the posts of Mayors, and several hundred others in lower posts in municipalities and town panchayats, on TV screens have captivated women audiences in particular.

The freebies announced for ration-card holders, the free bus travel for women by state-owned buses in urban areas, the thrust on reservation for the OBCs and the Dalits, all these too have helped the DMK in its tactic of reaching out to new segments and create a women votebank for itself. That Stalin is handsome adds to his appeal among women voters. In contrast, the AIADMK is without a charismatic leader. His bicycle rides in apt attire have won him several admirers. The only rival for Stalin on this score is Kamal Haasan but the latter’s Makkal Needhi Maiam lacks organisational support especially in rural areas.

In the days to come, the women councillors and Mayors are bound to move upwards in the DMK rungs, and occupy more important posts like ministerships and party office-bearers. This is a huge plus for the DMK.

Ten years ago, it seemed that the DMK was struggling as a party of ageing men. Stalin has managed to change that. Today’s DMK has a large number of women activists at the grassroots, which could make a big difference when it comes to election time.


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