Tamil Nadu elections: ‘Giving Congress just 25 seats upped DMK vote share’

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(This story originally appeared in on May 04, 2021)

As the dust settles down in the intensely fought assembly election in Tamil Nadu, data show DMK has won 133 seats and a majority on its own by polling 36.9% of the popular valid votes. This has been the party’s second-lowest vote share in the three assembly polls it had won since 1996.

While the lowest has been 26.5% it got in 2006, which gave the party 96 seats and a ‘minority government’ tag, its highest was in 1996 when it got 42.1% — a wave election against the incumbent AIADMK.

The other Dravidian major, AIADMK, had polled 40.8% popular votes in 2016 to retain power for a second term after it came to power in 2011 with a vote share of 38.4%. AIADMK’s lowest was in 2001 when it won a majority of its own (132 seats) by securing just 31.4% of the total votes polled.

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    “DMK’s vote share in 2021 has improved by 5% compared to the 32% it got in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In 2016, DMK’s vote share was around 31%,” a poll strategist said. “The increase is partly due to the party’s move to restrict seats allotted to ally Congress at 25. This brought down the Congress’s vote share by around 5% from the 12.5% it got in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. By contesting from 173 seats, DMK managed to transfer a part of the Congress’s vote share to itself the strategist said.

    In the case of AIADMK, the party managed to improve its vote share to 34.2% in 2021 as against the 18% it got in 2019 LS polls. Though this is almost 7% lower than what it achieved in 2016, the party has managed to improve its 2021 vote share tally at the cost of PMK which was restricted to a mere 23 seats. “This way AIADMK managed to transfer 2% of PMK’s vote share to its kitty,” the strategist pointed out. One cannot compare apples with oranges, says Manuraj Shanmugasundaram, spokesperson of DMK.

    “In 2016, AIADMK contested on all 234 seats including its smaller allies, who contested on its symbol, while DMK had contested only 173 seats in 2021. Contesting a certain number of seats and setting aside the rest for allies is a strategy of a political party. With DMK getting a majority of its own, it gets the right to form the government,” Manuraj said.

    Both DMK and AIADMK has felt the heat in the past when they exhibited their large-heartedness in distributing seats to allies. In 2006, DMK was liberal in giving away seats to Congress, PMK and Communists. As a result, it was left with just 130 seats and won 96. Having to endure the ‘minority government’ tagline, the party vowed never to indulge in the largescale distribution of seats.

    “Fortunately, the DMK’s allies pulled in an additional 10% votes and the alliance benefitted. In 2001, AIADMK too gave away 94 seats to its allies including Congress, TMC (M), PMK, and Communists, and could contest only from just 140 seats,” said political analyst Ravindran Duraisamy.

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