Analysis & Opinion

Tamil Nadu and Indian Elections 2019: A Game of Musical Chairs

Acting pre-emptively, India’s fresh propaganda against Pakistan after Pulwama incident gave a feverish start to Indian General Elections 2019. Subsequently, Election Commission of India announced, on 10 March 2019, that the polls will start from April 11 and will be conducted in seven phases. The race started with the rally on March 6 by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-the ruling party of India-in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. As this is the re-election of Modi, both Modi and BJP President Amit Shah understand that scoring another election is an uphill task. Knowing the art of election engineering, BJP has been trying to establish its foothold in those parts of India where it has been performing weak, such as India’s eastern states-Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and West Bengal. These regions have been the stronghold of either Indian National Congress (INC) or other smaller political parties of the region. That is why; BJP’s alliance with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is a pre-requisite, if it wants to get reelected.

With its rare fourth visit in 40 days, Modi’s focus has shifted towards Tamil Nadu abruptly. The reason is simple: Modi’s fame has declined and BJP is referred as pariah in Tamil Nadu. In their reluctance towards BJP/Modi, the people of Tamil Nadu are not only fighting for their identity but also have grievances relating to inept governance by central government. Not so long ago, Modi had to confront tremendous reaction with hashtags on Twitter, such as, #GoBackModi. That is why; Modi mollified the incredible status of former leaders of Tamil Nadu. Going further in his appeasement tactics, Modi not only founded a statue of M. G. Ramachandran-founder of ADMK but also named Chennai railway station after his name along with realization of a number of developmental projects in the region.

2019 has also been a lucky year for Modi’s election campaign as the Abhinandan Verthaman-the Indian Air Force pilot, who was caught and discharged by Pakistan after the Balakot airstrikes– belongs to Tamil Nadu of which he took full benefit of. Despite all these efforts, Tamil Nadu is still going to prove a hard battleground for Modi for many reasons. First of all, AIADMK is divided over alliance with BJP. In 2014 general decisions, AIADMKwon 37/39 seats under the leadership of late J. Jayalalithaa. However, after her mysterious death, “Amma” (Jayalalithaa) helped BJP political invasion inTamil Nadu through a debilitated AIADMK-now under the leadership of CM Edappadi K Palaniswami. 

Secondly, BJP is also considered as a “saffron party,” which discovers support in the Hindi-talking belt of India. As a result, it espouses Tamil fervor, especially when it comes to essential Hindi language in schools and anti-Hindi sentiments of Tamils. Central government’s naming and renaming of various developmental projects in Hindi is another hurdle between Centre and Tamil Nadu.Furthermore, both DMK and the AIADMK have advanced Tamil and English as mediums in training and work which also finds its roots in Dravidian movement. In addition, the Centre has also been criticized over its biasness when it comes to addressing various Tamil Nadu’s grievances. For instance, Centre didn’t do much to settle the water debate between Tamil Nadu and neighboring Karnataka. Another issue pertains to the non-exemption of the state from a “Common Eligibility and Entrance Exam for Medical Studies (NEET)”. In furtherance to this, Centre also showed apathy towards Tamil Nadu during Cyclone Gajain November 2018. PM Modi didn’t show any concern when 13 Tamils were shot by the state policy over environmental protests in the district of Tuticorin. Similarly, ruling party of Tamil Nadu worked for any rapprochement with the Centre over these issues.

In the light of above discussion, fight over 39 Lok Sabhaon Apil 18 in Tamil Nadu is not going to be easy. Aside from BJP, Congress and other regional smaller political parties are divided between the DMK (Dravida MunnetraKazhagam) and AIADMK (All India Anna DravidaMunnetra Kazhagam), which leaves little room for BJP to maneuver. With all these issues, BJP also face criticism because of various corruption scandals, such as the Granite Scam, TANSI land acquisition case, Sand mining case, and Pleasant Stay hotel case etc. The people of Tirunelveli district-southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, have been protesting against Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP)owing to environmental and human health related issues, leading to the arrest of almost 55,000 people, who have been deceitfully charged for ‘war against the state’. So every glass is half filled when it comes to 2019 elections.

Modi government is also not an exception when it comes to corruption, human rights violations in Kashmir, plight of minorities and propaganda against Pakistan. Indian elections 2019 have aggravated, in addition, the threat of the rise of Hindu extremism in the future. In this game of musical chairs where either leader is equally corrupt and dangerous for so-called secular India, India is going to get a hung parliament with “cash for vote” to play a crucial role in Lok Sabha elections-2019. Such a hung parliament may not be acceptable to many and could lead to chaos and instability-Indian Devi of democracy being the first victim.Last but not the least, no matter who gets elected in India; people will continue living below poverty line, Kashmiriswill remain victim of Indian draconian laws and human right abuses, Hindu extremists will continue to plunder minorities, region will remain affected by Indian hegemonic aspiration and adventurists tendencies, women will be raped publically and corruption will remain order of the day.

Written by: Adeel Mukhtar Mirza