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Modi and the lady

I see a parallel in the campaign strategies of J Jayalalithaa and Narendra Modi. The latter helped BJP decimate opposition in most states. Likewise AIADMK Supremo Jayalalithaa’s campaign made mincemeat of the Opposition. The AIADMK won 37 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu. The other two went to Pon. Radhakrishnan, BJP’s state president and Anbumani Ramadoss of PMK, part of the BJP-led alliance.

Jayalalithaa set the target to win all the 40 seats including the one from Puducherry. In a hectic schedule, her campaign spread through six weeks. She addressed hugely attended meetings in each one of the 40 constituencies. She galvanised the party workers as never before; entrusted work to ministers and district secretaries and other local party functionaries. She projected the achievements of her government over the last three years.

For the first time since 1967, major political parties of the state fought on their own. A few minor parties, mostly caste-based, fought under the lead of BJP. It took long to knit this alliance and there was no enthusiasm among the constituents to pull together. Particularly hostile were the relations between actor Vijayakanth’s DMDK and the Vanniar outfit PMK.

The arithmetic formulated by C Rajaji and C N Annadurai in 1967, of preventing the split of votes among parties opposed to the major Congress at that time, worked well in the subsequent four decades. Congress rode piggyback either on the DMK or the AIADMK. So did the Communists. This time Jayalalithaa boldly opted to contest all on her own and won with such results! The vote share of AIADMK was a healthy 44.3 per cent. The DMK suffered the worst defeat after 1991 of drawing a blank. Ditto for the Congress which lost in all the constituencies it contested. Its vote share was just around 4 per cent. The DMDK led by actor Vijaykanth  also drew blank.

The DMK was built on the oratory of leaders right from C N Annadurai and M Karunanidhi to dozens of these down the line. Though M K Stalin, who functioned as the Mayor of Chennai and as Deputy Chief Minister of the state, is a good organiser, he  lacks the oratory and charisma of his father. The nonagenarian Karunanidhi could not campaign in all the constituencies  as he used to in previous elections. This time the party also suffered from the alienation of  MK’s elder son M K Alagiri who turned hostile and was suspended from the party.

The elections poignantly revealed the absence of political leaders of stature except Jayalalithaa, who would command large audiences and spread attention.

Northern states like Bihar and UP traditionally voted on caste lines, but changed track this time. But the electoral calculations in Tamil Nadu continued to be based on the arithmetic of caste. Ironically, the state that ostensibly started to eliminate castes some eight decades ago, seems to be deeply entrenched in caste affiliations. The 2014 elections are no exception to parties selecting candidates on the strength of different castes in different constituencies.

After the resounding success of his organisational skills that won BJP and  its allies 73 out of 80 seats in UP,  Amit Shah should be in great demand for building the party in states with a weak base for the BJP like Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and West Bengal.  This will be quite necessary to build the stature of BJP as a national party, wielding influence in all states.

Elections to state assemblies will offer good opportunities to attempt this.

If Congress could also endeavour to build the party from the grassroots, there will be hope for the evolution of a strong two-party system as in the US.


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