The two main parties in Tamil Nadu have won assembly elections alternatively since 1991. The party in power loses elections and allies — this has been a simple rule of the state’s politics. The reason this happens and the relative merits of each party in terms of delivering on governance over the past two decades can be debated with no real conclusion. One could also argue, the AIADMK is the largest party in Tamil Nadu on the basis of its areas of influence on a standalone basis. Though, that makes little sense in a political scene that is decided by alliance arithmetic.
The situation changes quite dramatically if Lok Sabha elections are looked at. The DMK has been a member of the Union Cabinet in United Front, NDA and UPA regimes. The party has not pulled down a single government — though in typical Tamil Nadu outcomes the alliance headed by it has had close to all 40 seats. The AIADMK won Lok Sabha elections meaningfully in 1991 after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination and then again to pull down the Vajpayee government. Beyond those two occasions, there has been no significant AIADMK presence in New Delhi.
It’s easy to dismiss Jaya’s failures in New Delhi by citing her fragile ego. That is simplistic and insults the intelligence of a woman who has headed the largest party in the state with some success. She, more than idiots with free Internet, should know what a huge loss of campaign funds the lack of a central ministry must have been. Especially when her main rival has been accused of raking in thousands of crores over the past decade.
Some of Jayalalitha’s failures in Delhi can be attributed to genuine election outcomes. Most opinion polls suggested the NDA would win and one can’t fully fault her for allying with the BJP in 2004. Though, it could be argued that no party in TN, if in its right mind, would ever have a pre -poll alliance with BJP. This again means, if the election calendar of the country and the state are not in-phase, there is no real way in which a Dravidian party can support the BJP even after the elections. Cases in point: the reason Jayalalitha won the 2001 assembly elections could in part be attributed to the NDA alliance of DMK. Similarly, the DMK walking out of NDA was crucial to its winning of the 2006 assembly elections. The alliances in the state work on that basis. One can either have the BJP or have the Communists and(/or) the Congress. It’s a no brainer as to which is a winning combination. Or, at least what the losing proposition certainly is.
I suspect, somewhere in all this, Jayalalitha learnt the lessons of coalition dynamics as all of us did. Possibly much earlier than anyone of us noticed she has been out of Delhi for really long. She has also been unlucky with the election calendar more than her rival. What she will now do after possibly winning the coming elections will be a lesson in realpolitik. There are no easy options even if she wins. Unless, the Congress throws out a certain Chettiar and she allies with it again.
PS: If all of TN’s 39+1 seats are therefore out of BJP’s reach for the next 10 years, one can safely assume, Rahul Gandhi will be Prime Minister in a few years.