I have been wanting to blog about this for sometime now. Today’s Editorial in The Hindu gave the much needed final push. It’s about the recent by-elections in Tamilnadu.
The editorial rightly points out the unusually high number of by-elections in the State – 11 in the last 4 years. And everytime its the DMK or its partner the Congress that has gone to win the by-elections, more often than not by pretty large margins. The last week’s by-election in Pennagram was no different. And everytime there has been noise in the media and by the opposition parties that money and goodies are being doled out by the ruling combine to win the elections. By the kind of noise made and the variety of sources that highlight this, it does some to hold some credibility. Not that the other parties are not giving money, only that they are not in power and thus the resources available are limited! Sad, but true. But the editorial goes on to argue that if it was money power that was indeed the reason behind the victories, they cannot be persistent – over 11 seats – and from all parts of the state. The editorial attributes the victories to the popular policies that the DMK government has implemented in the last 4 years. Now it is fairly known that The Hindu is DMK friendly but I never expected such lopsided editorial. True, that some of the government policies are good and true that the editorial does make mention of shortcoming in delivery of services. But what about the law and order issues! A sub-inspector got murdered in broad daylight, not less in the front of a minister and it finds no mention in the editorial. Even if one were to assume it may not be ‘relevant’ with respect to today’s editorial on the by-elections, the editorial leaves out some important questions about the by-elections themselves.
First, on the claim of the editorial that “No ‘election malpractice’ can explain such a strong, consistent performance.” Can the 11 victories themselves clear DMK combine of any allegations of cash and goodies distribution? One can get back and argue it only vindicates the charges!! The allegations have been consistent and from a wide section of the press. Some truth should be there.
What about the unusually high voter turnout?
In Pennagaram the voter turnout was 85%. This a by-election for an assembly seat where the assembly itself may get dissolved within a year. In the hot summer month of March. Wiki informs that all the three sets of by-elections in the state have witnessed high turnout – “89% in Thirumangalam, average 65% in the four constituencies in the second phase and average 80% in the two constituency in the third phase”. Now one can be happy that people have become more duty conscious and started turning out in huge numbers to exercise their franchise. Or can deduce that there is something wrong going on here. I am not aware of studies studying voter turnouts in by-elections and general elections. But I am willing to stick my neck out and claim that turnouts in by-elections got to be lower!
The growing noise about cash and goodies distribution in elections is a very disturbing trend and its sad to see even a responsible paper like The Hindu has given clean chit on a very superficial basis. My fear is that the DMK is becoming entrenched strongly and soon may end up doing what CPM did in West Bengal for years. It does not help matters when the leader of the primary opposition party is completely disinterested in discharging her duties and goes off to take rest in her estate. Jayalalithaa has consistently addressed the DMK government as a ‘minority’ government, but in effect it faces no opposition in the assembly. ADMK inspite of having a large strength in the Tamilnadu assembly in recent history has been quite ineffective in being a proactive and constructive opposition. It is only fitting that the ADMK was consigned to the third place in the Pennagaram election and lost its deposit. Will the Amma heed to the wake-up call! Else DMK can win the next election and entrench itself strongly which can well be a death blow to the ADMK.
Two things can affect this though:
The now open on and off succession fight between Stalin and Azhagiri. The Hindu editorial opines that the ‘succession is clearly worked out’!! But the fact is that the old man is struggling to reign in Azhagiri and the latter is banking on his strong showing in the southern districts in recent times to back up his claim. The battle lines are still not drawn completly, far from being settled!
The other game changer could be the Congress. Historically the combine which has the Congress always have an upper ‘hand’. With Rahul showing interest in Tamilnadu, if only it can settle the egos of its innumerable Congress ‘chiefs’, it may not be a bad idea for the party to go alone in the coming elections. Or if the rumours of patchup with ADMK turns out to be true, that could upset things for the DMK too. But for that Jayalalithaa has to wake up and take up more interest in the state.
Which way the Tamilnadu politics would go is anyone’s guess. But for me, I would not like to see an unbridled entrenched DMK in power as it is not in the long term interest of the state.
(Photo Source: Tuqlaq)
1. I would vote for DMK in the battle between DMK and ADMK if Stalin is projected as CM; for all his failings in early days, he is one of the better administrators in the state today. But I would never want to see an unchecked DMK and growing degradation of democracy in the state.
2. I have been tagged by S and D to reveal 7 random truths about myself that the readers may not be aware of. Now that by itself is a tall task! Add to that S wants them to be worthy enough to be ‘chuckling at’ and ‘twitter wickedly’ and D has put more peer pressure in her own inimitable way 🙂 I have come up with only one so far and I am sure it is ‘chuckle’worthy. So its going to be some more time before I come with 6 more 🙂