Archive for April, 2006|Monthly archive page

The Hindu, on Tamil Nadu

The Sunday edition of The Hindu carries an excellent analysis of the probable outcomes of the TN Assembly polls, by Yogendra Yadav and Sanjay Kumar. Based on the findings of the Hindu-CNN-IBN Poll, the psephologists predict that "no one party is likely to get a majority on its own".Whereas that may sound like deja vu (or deja entendu), the possible outcomes given vote swings makes interesting reading. It may be recalled that the Hindu-CNN-IBN poll gave the ADMK combine a vote share of 46% and the DMK combine 44%. Based on this, the former will win 118 seats and the latter 110. A simple 2% swing in favour of the ruling party would net it 40 more seats – a comfortable majority. An additional 2% swing (which, I think is unlikely) would mean an additional 30 seats.

On the other side, a swing of 2% in favour of the DMK and allies would sweep them into power with a tally of 146. And they can reach 170 with a 4% swing.

I think the Hindu-CNN-IBN poll was the earliest, and it might have not captured in full measure "the alleged wave" in favour of the DMK, after Kalaignar announced some pretty interesting sops and freebies. As it stands, one is tempted to think that the DMK is slightly ahead in this neck-and-neck race. However, given the fact that even small vote swings can alter the outcomes at the hustings, this race is, to borrow a term from psephologists themselves, "simply too close to call".

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ADMK’s AIFB problem – An Analysis

One of the problems that the ADMK must overcome to win this election will be to limit the vote share of the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB). AIFB is now headed by Tamil film actor Karthik and is contesting independently in about 62 seats this election (It earlier planned on contesting in 72 seats). The AIFB receives good support from the dominant Thevar community. This community voted overwhelmingly for the ADMK party in the previous elections, but this election it could be different. The reason for this is Karthik himself hails from the Thevar community and has a strong following within the community. Moreover, ADMK is now in alliance with the Dalit Panthers of India (DPI). A rivalry exists between the Dalit and Thevar communities in southern TN. This could result in loss of votes for the ADMK. A few days back during campaigning, Karunanidhi made a reference to this issue. The ADMK on the other hand has tried to play hard ball with Karthik faction of the AIFB. A number of AIFB candidates have been pressurized to switch over to the ADMK and not contest the election. A few others who refused to budge were threatened. With elections this close, ADMK seems to take no chances with the AIFB, but it remains to be seen if the damage can be curtailed.

Deccan Chronicle-AC Nielsen Opinion Poll

To add to the growing confusion among voters, the results of another opinion poll were released yesterday. This one was conducted by the Decaan Chronicle and AC Nielsen. The survey gives a waffer thin advantage to the ADMK. The survey predicts the ADMK led DPF alliance will get 48% of the popular votes and the DMK led DPA will get 47%. The DMDK will get about 4% of the total votes, majority of which comes from people in the 18-35 age range. The survey found that a majority of the people where extremely happy with the performance of the Jayalalitha government over the last 5 years. Overall, even though different surveys have been predicting different alliances to emerge victories, the percentage difference in vote share between the two major alliance in all the polls have been extremely small. This clearly leads to the conclusion that we will end up with a hung assembly.

Deccan Chronicle-AC Nielsen Opinion Poll

ADMK+ – 48%
DMK+ – 47%
DMDK – 4%

Advantage DMK: Week / C-Voter Opinion Poll

News magazine 'The Week' in conjunction with C-Voter released an opinion poll for the forthcoming assembly election yesterday. They predicted victory for the DMK led DPA allaince. According to the forcast, the DPA alliance is expected to get between 130-138 seats and the ADMK led DPF alliance is expected to get 87-95 seats. In terms of vote share, the DPA is expected to get 45% of the popular vote and the DPF 42%. According to the survey, more people prefer Karunanidhi to Jayalalitha as the next Chief Minister. People also don't believe Vaiko's switch from the DMK to ADMK alliance will have any great impact. I am not sure about the track record of previous Week / C-Voters opinion polls. But, the results of this survey look realistic. The results seem to indicate strongly that for the first time ever there will be a coalition government in the state.

Week / C-Voter Opinion Poll

DMK +- 130-138
ADMK+ – 87-95
Others – 5-13

The Chief Ministerial Debates

Just a thought…

During the US Presidential elections, the two main candidates face off in three pre-election debates. This gives each candidate to explain his position and policies. The incumbent can defend his administration's actions, and extol his achievements, whereas the challenger can point out the shortcomings. The debates are televised and attract a huge audience, and offer the viewing public a chance to evaluate one candidate vis-a-vis the other.

I'm wondering why not we have such debates in India. Of course, the Parliamentary elections throw up a new candidate each time, so it may not be possible. But in a state like Tamil Nadu, where the hanging chads point one way or the other, a debate featuring the supremos of the two fronts is technically possible.

Recently, I had posted a campaign speech of the Finance Minister, Mr. P. Chidambaram, in which he had alleged that the Tamil Nadu Government had claimed very little of the actual money allocated by the Centre, but was it cribbing that funds were not allocated sufficiently. In response to this, a reader had questioned the timing of this allegation, asking why the FM had not responded to the State Govt's accusation, and why he chose the campaign plank to rake up the issue. If the Government and the Opposition (or their respective leaders) could indulge in an open televised debate outside the Assembly, such allegations can be sorted out.

The point here is that while each leader reels off accusations, the other parties need not respond to those accusations directly. This would, however, be necessary in a live debate. Without doubt, the leaders of the two fronts, Ms Jayalalithaa and Mr Karunanidhi are the tallest campaigners in the state. A live face-off between the two off them? Just the thought is mouth-watering!

Constituency Watch – Thondamuthur

Two political heavy-weights, SR Balasubramaniam (Congress) and M Kanappan (MDMK) are squaring off against each other in the Thondamuthur assembly constituency located in the Coimbatore district.

Both candidates have been Union Ministers in the past. SR Balasubramaniam is currently the floor leader of Congress party in the TN Assembly. In the last election, he became a MLA from Thondamuthur constituency winning by a convincing margin of 28,000 votes against VR Sunkanya of the DMK. M Kanappan is currently the treasurer of the MDMK. He was earlier Member of Parliament from the Tiruchengode parliamentary segment and served as Union Minister in the Vajpayee Government.

Interestingly, both the candidates are not natives of Thondamuthur. SR Balasubramaniam is expect to face anti-incumbency because of his lackluster performance as a MLA of this constituency for the past 5 years. Moreover, inter-party rivalry between various factions in the Congress will affect his prospects. Kanappan however doesn’t have any such problems. He can expect the backing of the rank and file of the party. However, he would need the complete backing of the ADMK to emerge victorious from this constituency. Given the high-profile nature of the contest many leaders of both the parties have been campaigning here. Barring any dramatic developments in the next few weeks to election, the outcome of the election is expected to be very close.

Personality Watch – S Ramadoss

One of the most important power players in TN politics today is the PMK founder S Ramadoss. Ramadoss was a doctor by profession before he decided to plunge into politics. He enjoys considerable support in the Vanniyar community, a dominant caste in the northern parts of TN especially in Chennai, Tiruchi, Salem, Cuddalore, and Kancheepuram districts.

His outfit the PMK has always had a violent past. In fact his rivalry with DPI founder Thirumavalavan is well known. However, the two have patched up since. In the recent past, Ramadoss has also had clashes with big wings in the Tamil film industry. His denunciation of Rajnikanth prior to the release of film 'Baba' is well known to all. In spite of all this, Ramadoss still enjoys considerable clout. This is because of the concentration of his supporters in key swing districts.

His equation with Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha has always been mixed. Ramadoss has switched sides between ADMK and DMK on numerous occasions. This election, Ramadoss's PMK is contesting as part of the DMK led DPA alliance. His party is contesting in 31 seats. With a close election on the cards, Ramadoss is likely to play a crucial role in the formation of the next government.

Your Opinion

Yesterday, the Indian Express came up with a startling revelation that Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran tried to misuse his official position by trying to persuade the Tata Group into adding SUN TV as a partner in the Tata-News Corp DTH joint venture. Also what is more startling is that fact that Dayanidhi Maran demanded that Tata Group give SUN TV a huge concession. DTH connectivity is crucial to SUN TV for maintaining its leadership. Given that elections are so close and with the fact that the ruling ADMK led DPF alliance is trying to use role of SUN TV as a key election issue, do you think this might blow up into a huge controversy and affect the election prospects of the DMK?

49-O – the right to not vote

Over the past few weeks, 49-O has been in the lips of many. The concept of casting a null vote, though being publicised now, is not a new one. The Election Commission of India's website reveals that such a thing has been in existence since 1961.

Here is the procedure. Suppose you decide not to vote for any of the candidates in the fray, you can visit your polling station, and when your turn comes, you can walk up to the election official stating your intent to cast a null vote. You have to fill out a form and sign the register. And walk out!

The relevant section of the EC's Guide for Voters (PDF link) is as follows:

The homepage of the Election Commission has many more informative documents, that are worth a perusal.

Murasu Symbol allotted to DMDK

The Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kalagam started by Tamil film actor Vijaykanth was allotted the "Murasu" symbol by the Election Commission. It must be noted that DMDK has been pressing the Election Commission for quite sometime now for allotting the Murasu symbol. The allotment of the symbol should come as a relief for Vijaykanth since there are at least three candidates with the same name contesting as independents from Viruddachalam assembly constituency. Else where, the Dalit Panthers of India (DPI), which is contesting as part of the ADMK led DPF alliance, has been allotted the "Bell" symbol.