People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 23, 2004
Quite An Expected Result
A Decisive Blow To The BJP-AIADMK
A A Nainar
IT was definitely not an unexpected result. There were so many factors that pointed to such a magnificent and landslide victory for the Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA) and the Left parties. First and foremost is the alliance and the arithmetic of the DPA and supporting parties’ vote share. The second pointer was the misery heaped on the people by the anti-people policies of the central and state governments and the resultant anger of the people against the BJP-AIADMK. Thirdly and most importantly, the people's anger at the anti-democratic policies adopted by the Jayalalitha government in the most authoritarian fashion. Fourthly, the communal campaign of the BJP did not cut much ice with the generally secular minded people of the state. The people had really been waiting for long to teach a lesson to the four and a half years misrule of the BJP-led NDA and the three years long Jayalalitha regime's tyrannical rule. All these factors combined to produce the result, which as stated earlier was quite expected.
The TESMA/ESMA regime which dismissed nearly 1.70 lakh government employees, the POTA regime that had jailed prominent political leaders for more than a year, troubled the minds of the common people. Failure of the CRA (Cauvery River Water Authority) to get water for cultivation and continuing distress on the rural side were also agitating the minds of the small and marginal land holders, share croppers, farmers and agricultural workers. The handloom and power loom industries in the Erode/Tiruppur belt were virtually closed due to the taxation policy of the BJP-led union government rendering thousands of people jobless. During the election campaign in Tiruppur on May 5, 2004 prime ministerVajpayee claimed that nobody brought to his knowledge about such sufferings and that had it been known to him he would have definitely scrapped the new taxes that were levied. People were clever enough to be fooled by such duplicity. The cumulative effect of all these factors were only expected to find its manifestation in the voting.
DPA AHEAD IN CAMPAIGN
During the campaign too, Jayalalitha was the only leader to campaign for the AIADMK-BJP combine. No one else was employed for the job. BJP as a political party could not undertake any big campaign throughout the state, barring a few meetings addressed by their leaders like Advani and Vajpayee. This was in contrast to the whirlwind tour of the state by leaders of the opposition alliance -- Karunanidhi (DMK), Vaiko (MDMK), Ramadoss (PMK) and other Congress leaders. The Left parties’ central and state-level leaders, both from CPI(M) and the CPI campaigned in full strength against the BJP-AIADMK combine. The biggest gathering was at Madurai on May 1 which was addressed by CPI(M) general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet and DMK chief Karunanidhi. So the edge was very much visible in the campaign front.
The Election Commission acted as a neutral monitoring body that effectively stopped the parties in power from misusing the official machinery. Though the ruling combine attempted to buy votes with their moneybags, the people rejected such attempts with the contempt they deserve. The much-touted ‘Big Bang’ entry of Rajinikant, the cine actor for BJP’s campaign ultimately ended in a whimper.
VOTING WITH VENGEANCE
People had decided long back and implemented it with clinical precision on the day of voting. The role of the parties and their campaign only helped to recount and to recollect as to what had happened to them during the past few years of Jayalalitha rule. The people came in large numbers early when the polling began, stood in long queues and voted the AIADMK-BJP combine out with a vengeance. They delivered Jayalalitha her worst humiliating electoral performance. This is the verdict of 2004 in Tamil Nadu.
Barring a few general elections in the state, Tamil Nadu had most of the times delivered near landslide victories to one or the other front. At least on three earlier occasions, one front was completely wiped out while the other won all the 39 constituencies. In 1967 when an anti-Congress wave swept the state, the Congress party could not win a single seat. In 1991, immediately after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the DMK-led opposition front was defeated and denied any representation in the Lok Sabha. Then again during 1996, the TMC (G K Moopanar) & DMK front decimated the AIADMK-Congress front and the latter combine could not find favour with the electorate for any of their candidates contesting the election.
Similarly, during the other elections also the quotient had been 38:1 or 37:2 or at best 35:4. Only during 1998, in the aftermath of the Coimbatore bomb blasts, despite the high-pitched communal campaign of the Advani and Jayalalitha, the AIADMK-BJP combine could take 30 seats and TMC-DMK front had to be content with 10. So, in a sense it could be said that the electoral verdicts in the state, right or wrong, had never been a fractured one. The legacy continues in this election too where all the 39 seats in the state was won by the DMK-led DPA, which was mutually supported by the Left.
Another significant feature of this victory has been that for the first time after 1967, the state is sending four Left MPs to the Lok Sabha. The union minister in the NDA government and BJP candidate Radhakrishnan was defeated by a huge margin of 1.65 lakh votes by A V Bellarmin of the CPI(M) in Nagercoil constituency. The state president of the BJP, C P Radhakrishnan, was also convincingly defeated by the CPI candidate K Subbarayan, who won by a margin of 1.60 lakh votes. The victory of Mohan (CPI-M) in Madurai was very important because he retained the seat with a higher margin of votes. Though contested twice before by the Left, for the first time the Tenkasi Lok Sabha constituency elected a CPI candidate Appadurai.
A notable lapse in the conduct of elections in the state has been the removal of large chunks of voters from the voters list in every constituency. The list included Maraikkayer, brother of the president of the nation ,The significance of the victory is that Tamil Nadu, A P J Abdul Kalam. Relatives of the chief election committee, T S Krishnamurthy, and prominent journalist, ‘Cho’ Ramasamy, also had their names missing. While the commission had ordered an enquiry, the opposition parties protested the failure of the state government and their motivated efforts at the enumeration stage, which actually resulted in denial of this basic democratic right to lakhs of genuine voters.
VICTORY FOR PEOPLE
As the results were out, the DPA and the opposition alliance thanked the people for their massive support. But, initially AIADMK leader Jayalalitha’s statement said that the elections were for the Parliament and it had nothing to do with the state government’s style of functioning. But the announcements she had made on the May 18 is contrary to what she said in the statement. As sequel to the results, she had scrapped a lot of harsh measures taken by her over the past three years.
Restoration of ration cards to all, restoration of subsidy for bus passes to the students, restoration of free electricity to the farmers and poor households, withdrawal of law banning religious conversions, withdrawal of all punishments/cases against the state government employees, withdrawal of defamation/criminal proceedings against the newspapers (The Hindu, Murasoli and Theekkatir), withdrawal of cases against political leaders filed under TESMA etc are the measures announced by the state government. While one can understand that this is being done with an eye on the assembly elections due in 2006, the people can rejoice that they forced an unrelenting regime to bow to its verdict. Though many more damages inflicted on the people and the system are yet to be remedied, these announcements themselves are a great victory for the forces of democracy and secularism.
As for the BJP, ever since one of the Dravidian party (AIADMK) allied with them in the year 1996, they had always been claiming that they had not only gained a foothold in the state but were a growing party. Though not underestimating the danger of the growth of BJP, contrary to their claims, they may have to go a long way before establishing themselves in the state. The people of Tamil Nadu are proud of their contribution to the dislodging of the communal government at the centre and putting in place an alternative secular government. They are releived that in the 14th Lok Sabha none of their MPs would be in the company of saffron-clad political manipulators in Delhi.