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Amma returns: decoding Jayalalithaa's historic win in Tamil Nadu

S Murari | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

J Jayalalithaa has won a historic second term as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu, but she will have to contend with a strong opposition.

While she has got a comfortable majority of 133 seats, the opposition DMK-Congress combine has won 99 seats.

Thanks to the close race between the the two stalwarts of Tamil Nadu politics, Jayalalithaa and five-time former chief minister M Karunanidhi, the non-Dravidian parties have been thrown into the dustbin.

Read: 'Yo-yo' be damned. Jaya returns to power smoothly

The People's Welfare Front drew a blank. Its leader Vijayakanth ended up in third position in Ulundurpet, in a triangular contest in the Vanniar belt, where the PMK played spoilsport.

In fact the non-DMK parties, including the PMK have only split the anti-government votes.

The BJP which contested 155 constituencies with some minor allies, lost deposits in all but two seats - T Nagar in Chennai and Coimbatore South. This, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself leading the campaign.

Never before has Tamil Nadu seen such a bipolar contest with the AIADMK contesting 227 seats out of 234 seats, allotting the remaining 7 to minor allies who contested on the party's two-leaves symbol. The DMK contested 183 seats, leaving 41 to the Congress, 13 to Muslim outfits and Dalit party Puthiya Tamizhagam of Dr Krishnaswamy.

Winners and losers

Of the 20 ministers who contested, 5 lost. They included Natham Viswanathan, Valarmathi and Gokul Indira. On the other hand , senior leaders like D Jayakumar and K A Sengottaiyan won comfortably. Another winner from the AIADMK was the two time stop-gap Chief Minister O Panneerselvam. However, he had shifted his seat from Theni, where there was dissatisfaction against him, to neighbouring Bodi in the same Thevar belt.

The voters punished Parithi Ilamvazhuthi, who after a long stint in the DMK joined the AIADMK, after falling out with Stalin. He was seeking re-election from Egmore in Chennai. On the other hand, Shekhar Babu a defector from the AIADMK, won from Harbour for the DMK

In the last election, AIADMK nearly swept all the 14 seats in Chennai. This time around, the DMK regained lost ground with its second-in-command Stalin himself winning from Kolathur .

The star winner for the AIADMK from Chennai was, of course, Jayalalitha who got a second term from RK Nagar. Another prominent personality to win was former DGP of police, Nataraj.

Also read: AIADMK MLAs to elect Jayalalithaa as legislature party leader

The AIADMK's win can be attributed mainly to a sweep in its stronghold of western Tamil Nadu, otherwise known as the Kongu belt. Its traditional supporters Gounders, an intermediate caste, and Arundhathiyars, the lowest among the Dalits never moved away from MGR's two-leaves symbol.

The belt accounts for over 50 seats and covers Salem, Erode, Namakkal, Karur, and Coimbatore.

Interestingly in Nilgiris, which accounts for three seats, the DMK and Congress won one seat each - Nilgiris and Gudalur -- while the AIADMK won in Mettupalayam in the plains.

Its show was equally impressive in the Thevar belt in southern Tamil Nadu comprising Madurai, Virudhanagar, Theni and Bodi. Thanks to Sasikala Natarajan, a Thevar, and her close association with Jayalalitha, the AIADMK always enjoyed the community's patronage.

In the northern belt where the Vanniyars dominate, a triangular contest led to non-Vanniar consolidation against the PMK. Its CM candidate Anbumani Ramadoss and his deputy GK Mani lost from Pennagaram and Mettur respectively.

There were no upset defeats among DMK leaders. All prominent leaders including Karunanidhi, MK Stalin, Durai Murugan, K Ponmudi, KN Nehru, Geetha Jevan, E Periayasamy and Dr Poongothai Aladi Aranu and S Raghupathi won.

Karunanidhi won for a second time by a huge margin from his native Tiruvarur district in the Cauvery belt. In fact, as the Congress has a strong presence in both Thanjavur and Tiruvarur, the alliance was able to win quite a number of seats from these districts. Of course in Nagapattinam, the tail-end district of the delta, the AIAMDK did well.

The DMK-Congress combine won five out of six seats from Kanyakumari in the southern tip where politics is influenced by neighbouring Kerala.

Jayalalithaa creates history

Jayalalithaa is the only Chief Minister to get elected despite being convicted twice in corruption cases, the first time in 2001 and again now.

In 2001, she was disqualified from contesting the polls following her conviction in two corruption cases. Despite that, she led the AIADMK to victory, thanks to her alliance with the Congress. It was only after the Supreme Court asked her to step down and clear her name that she left office and made O Panneerselvam the CM. Of course, she got her name cleared in both the cases after appealing to the Supreme Court.

In September 2014, she was convicted in the disproportionate wealth case by a special court in Bengaluru. Again Panneerselvam stepped in. Yet again, she got acquitted in the High Court and Karnataka's appeal against this verdict is in the final stages of hearing before the Supreme Court.

If she has won in spite of this, it is because her alleged Rs 56 crore corruption case pales into insignificance before the 2G scam where the loss caused to the exchequer is estimated by the CAG to be to over Rs 1 lakh crore. The prime accused in this case is Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi and DMK Minister A Raja.

The renewed DMK-Congress alliance helped Jayalalitha revive memories of these mega scams.

While the voting class, namely the masses, was more or less evenly divided between the two Kazhagams, the elite and the educated middle class who voted for Jayalalithaa with a vengeance in 2011, decided not to vote at all.

When Panneerselvam was holding fort when Jayalalitha was fighting her case in the Karnataka High Court, a prominent DMK leader told this writer, "If the people have to choose between Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, they will choose Jaya. But if they have to choose between Karunanidhi and Panneerselvam, they will opt for Karunanidhi".

Read more- Election 2016 results: PM Modi congratulates AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa

The DMK's improvement from 22 to 88 was because of the relentless campaign by Stalin. Perhaps if Karunanidhi had gracefully retired in favour of his son, it would not have been easy for Jayalalithaa.

In her response to the verdict, Jayalalithaa said "the people are with me and I am forever indebted to him".

If she had confined herself to that, it would not have been Jayalalitha. So she added, "The so-called alternative fronts of ten parties were ranged against me and yet the people have given me a second term, which MGR got last in 1984".

Of course, she said she would fulfill all the promises made to the people.

Since the MGR's passing in 1987, neither Jayalalitha nor Karunanidhi attended the Assembly when they were in Opposition. This time too, Karunanidhi, who even otherwise is wheel-chair bound, is likely to leave the burden of leading the charge against the AIADMK to his son and No 2 Stalin.

Edited by Aditya Menon

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First published: 20 May 2016, 1:41 IST