Vol. XLIII No. 24 June 16, 2019
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BJP Decisively Defeated in Tamil Nadu In Lok Sabha Elections 2019

Venkatesh Athreya

DURING its five years in the central government from 2014 to 2019, BJP had not only polarised the people with a narrative of hate politics in its pursuit of Hindu Rashtra. Its economic policies had inflicted considerable harm on vast sections of India’s working people and destroyed informal sector livelihoods on a massive scale via demonetisation and a badly designed and hastily implemented GST. Yet, in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, its leader Modi was able, aided by enormous money power, pliable statutory  institutions and an obliging media (with very few honourable exceptions), to sell a narrative built around the invocation of national insecurity and communal hatred to retain power with an even larger number of seats than in 2014. The triumphant march of BJP across the country was, however, halted in Tamil Nadu where the BJP drew a blank despite contesting in alliance with the AIADMK and several other political parties. On a positive note, the defeat of BJP and its NDA allies in Tamil Nadu was massive. It was made possible by a strong combination of secular parties led by the DMK that had evolved as a product of joint struggles on people’s issues over an extended period in which the Left parties played an important role along with others.

SIGNIFICANT VICTORY OF SECULAR FORCES

There were two major forces confronting each other in the Lok Sabha elections. On the one side was the electoral alliance and seat adjustment among secular parties led by the DMK. Its other members were Congress, CPI(M), CPI, Marumalarchchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(MDMK), Viduthalai Chiruththaikal Katchi(VCK), the Indian Union Muslim League(IUML), Indhiya Jananaayaka Katchi(IJK) and Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi(KMDK).  On the other side, the coalition led by the AIADMK had as its other members the communal BJP, the casteist Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), the Desiya Dravida Murpokku Kazhagam(DMDK),  Puthia Thamilagam(PT) and Tamil Maanila Congress(TMC). The DMK led alliance covered all the 39 Lok Sabha constituencies in Tamil Nadu and one in the Union Territory of Puducherry. Election to the Vellore Lok Sabha constituency was cancelled by the Election Commission (EC).

Of the 39 constituencies for which elections were held, the DMK led alliance captured all but one seat. The lone seat won by the AIADMK led alliance was Theni, where the AIADMK defeated the Congress. The victory margins of the DMK led alliance were generally very large, with the margin exceeding three lakh votes in 14 of the 38 constituencies. Of the total votes polled in the Lok Sabha elections in the state, the DMK-led alliance secured 52.24 per cent while the AIADMK led alliance secured only 29.61 per cent. The lone seat in Puducherry went to the Congress which secured 57.13 per cent of the votes polled. The CPI(M) contested in two constituencies – Coimbatore and Madurai – while the CPI contested from Nagapattinam and Tiruppur. The Left parties won all the four seats allotted to them.

UNITED AND SUSTAINED STRUGGLES BRING BIG VICTORY

The election results and the sheer scale and margins of the victory of the DMK led alliance convey several messages. First, the results indicate considerable cohesion and unity among the alliance constituents in the election processes, which was the result of the constituents working together, conducting agitations and struggles on several important issues of the people of Tamil Nadu, in the process spreading awareness among the people of the anti-people policies of the Modi-led central government and the AIADMK led state government for over two years. The electoral victory was the culmination of a long period of these united actions and struggles by the eventual partners in the alliance on issues affecting the people of Tamil Nadu such as the imposition of NEET, the opening up of the Kaveri delta for hydrocarbon extraction by large corporate entities, the pushing by the central and state governments of an eight lane highway from Chennai to Salem seen by farmers as resulting in loss of farm lands, the state repression on the protesters in the agitation against the havoc caused by the Sterlite plant in Thoothukkudi on environment and on the health of the people which resulted in the tragic death of 13 persons in police firing, and even earlier, the jallikattu struggle, centre-state relations and so on, on all of which the BJP found itself arrayed against popular sentiment in the state, and the AIADMK was seen as under the thumb of the BJP.

The havoc caused by demonetisation and the hasty implementation of an ill-designed GST also worked against the BJP. Unemployment and the agrarian crisis too were issues of considerable importance in the state. The DMK led alliance thus seemed natural and legitimate to a large section of the electorate, as can be seen from the massive margins of victory of the candidates of the DMK-led alliance. The overwhelming aspect of the results is the tidal wave of popular anger against Modi and BJP for their economic policies and for their refusal to heed the voices of democracy in the state. The Modi narrative of national security and divisive politics based on religion and caste did not cut much ice with the electorate in Tamil Nadu, which rejected the corporate-Hindutva politics and policies of the BJP even more emphatically than on earlier occasions. The corrupt AIADMK leadership, on which the BJP unleashed central investigative agencies from time to time to keep it under its thumb, was perceived as cringing and subservient to BJP. Besides, it implemented the neoliberal policies with the same vigour as the BJP at the centre, not even speaking up for more powers to the state government and tolerating the several instances of centre’s usurpation of such powers.

Both the candidates fielded by our Party won with large margins. P R Natarajan who is a key leader of the Party in the district of Coimbatore and an experienced parliamentarian, contested from Coimbatore and won with a handsome margin of 1,76,918 votes, defeating the BJP candidate Pon Radhakrishnan. Su Venkatesan, a member of the Party state committee and president of the Progressive Writers and Artists Association of Tamil Nadu, an accomplished writer in Tamil who has already won the Sahithya Academy award for his novel Kaaval Kottam, contested from Madurai. He defeated his AIADMK rival V V R Raj Sathyen by a margin of 1,39,395 votes. The CPI candidates M Selvaraj from Nagappattinam and K Subbarayan from Tiruppur also won comfortably.

It must be noted that the AIADMK managed to do somewhat better in the by-elections to 22 assembly seats, winning nine of them while the DMK won 13. This result gives the AIADMK a slender majority in the legislative assembly for now. With the victory in 13 assembly seats, the DMK now has 101 members. The DMK got 45.1 per cent of the votes polled in the by elections as against 38.2 per cent for the AIADMK.

While the BJP has been decisively defeated in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu, it would be a dangerous mistake to ignore the threat it poses to the secular fabric of Tamil Nadu. Our Party will remain vigilant and continue the work of consolidating the unity of secular forces even as it takes forward the class and mass struggles against the anti-people policies of the central and state governments.