Today, Tamil Nadu is going to vote to choose their next government and over the past month, I have been seeing National news channels, who had idiotic debates about TN elections and how people will vote. The discussions were not researched and whatever they discussed are nothing but misconceptions. In fact, I think Maithreyan (ADMK) and Elangovan (DMK) had super fun sitting in the listless debate. So here I am writing about the 6 misconceptions that everybody thinks is true about Tamil Nadu politics
1. People vote for celebrities
Although from 1967, most of the Chief Ministers are related to the movie world, People don’t vote for celebrities. Leaders have used movies as a tool to enter politics and propagate their ideas. In fact movies and plays were one of the reasons why dravidian movement gained popularity in TN. There were instances when movie stars failed miserably in elections, Sivaji Ganesan, who is considered to be quite popular with audiences could not even reach the doors of the assembly. Although MGR came in to power backed up by his filmi persona, his philanthropy and schemes were the important reasons why he successfully defended his chief minister post. Rajinikanth would have been a great force to reckon with in TN politics, if he had come in to politics during 1996 elections but he never did. I dunno whether he will gain the same kind of reception if he jumps into politics at this moment. Situations does matter for stars to plunge into politics.
2. The Freebie culture started in 2006
The freebie culture did not start in 2006. The freebie idea were used for good and bad reasons in the past. I would even consider the Free Mid-day meal scheme started by Kamaraj as a good welfare oriented freebie. It was lapped by many states and one of the reasons why Kerala has high literacy rate. DMK’s Annadurai came to power in 1967 with a promise that they will give 4.5 KG rice for 1 Rs. “Oru roobaikku moondru padi arisi kodukkavillai yendral, yennai muchandiyil vaithu adiyungal” was the election slogan for that election. Over the years, the election manifestos did speak about such freebies except for 1991 (Rajiv Gandhi assassination wave) and 1996 (Jayalalitha hate – Moopanar – Rajini wave). The free color TV scheme was just an extension but only the right coalition helped DMK come to power and not a simple coolr TV scheme. In fact, individually ADMK got 32.5% (8% more than DMK), without PMK and Congress , DMK would not have been in power.
3. What happens in Chennai is representative of the whole state.
There are major differences between the state capital and the interior parts of the state. Chennai has a larger population of immigrants who have settled down here for longer periods and also the issues that people face in Chennai city is different from the issues faced by the rural population. The English news channels never go beyond Chennai and they take it as a representation of the whole state. Traditionally Chennai has been a DMK bastion for these many years and it was rattled by ADMK in last elections when ADMK won 7 seats out of possible 16. The margins usually are less than the other parts of the state. Even the average voter turn outs are better in the rural areas than in the cities. Chennai is quite elitist population where everybody talks about major issues like corruption but never end up in voting booths to vote.
4. People don’t care about corruption issues
The English news channels project that 2G scam will be a major issue in this year assembly elections. It will be one of the issues but not a major one. There are other regional scams and problems which affect the common man in rural TN. Daily power cuts and infrastructure problems will rank higher than the 2G scam. People are also well informed about the central and state issues. The 2009 mandate for DMK-Congress in Lok Sabha elections were totally given for the Central govt. and not for state govt. The people are a smarter lot than the politicians and the media. TN is one state which has defied the exit polls and predictions in every election (of course except for 1991 and 1996, in which everyone knew who was the winner)
5. Tamil Nadu voters hate National parties and support only regional parties
Tamil Nadu was ruled by Congress for 20 years. It was not only because of post-independence hangover but Congress had wonderful leaders from Tamil Nadu. Rajaji, Kamaraj and Bakthavatchalam were charismatic and at the same time paved the basic platform for the state to flourish. In fact, Kamaraj was the Congress president when Nehru passed away and denied the Prime Ministership when it was offered to him. There is a big dent of charismatic leaders in regional Congress after the death of Kamaraj.
BJP on the other hand is seen as religion based party in Tamil Nadu and it never appealed to the Dravidian based political lineage of Tamil Nadu. BJP also has no charismatic leaders who can woo the Tamil Nadu voters. It’s the grave mistake on the part of National Parties and not the people. I don’t see the resurgence of national parties in TN atleast for the next 10 years
6. People vote for money
I am not saying people don’t get money but do they vote for the same party, is a million dollar question. But there are more stereotypical reasons why people vote. The biggest one is caste. People in Tamil Nadu for their caste candidate and that’s the reason why caste based parties and movements in TN gain so much traction during the election times. Another important factor is the choice of candidates, sometimes a clever choice of candidate who has popularity in the constituency can swing the votes towards a particular party. Money comes secondary in those areas. They will definitely get the money, who will say no to a lump-some amount of money .
I am happy that the news channels and people want to comment about TN Politics but I hate the fact that only misconceptions about TN voters are spread across. Even the analysts who comment about TN politics never understand the grass root politics and issues. I would be happy if the reporting is based on some research.
Whatever they say Tamil Nadu has always given a clear mandate in all of the elections and it provides a stable government which helps TN to be placed in top 4 every year.