Drawing a blank in Tamil Nadu polls, Dhinakaran gets rural votes, and Kamal Haasan urban

Arun Janardhanan
T T V Dhinakaran, Kamal Haasan

The smaller, high-profile parties led by AIADMK rebel T T V Dhinakaran and actor Kamal Haasan managed to garner votes across pockets of Tamil Nadu but were unable to win any seats to the Lok Sabha on Thursday.

While Dhinakaran s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) managed to garner a roughly 5 per cent vote share, the spread of the votes showed that the party had fared well in rural pockets, while being completely obliterated in the urban ones. The vote share of AMMK in the Lok Sabha polls was 5.27 per cent in Lok Sabha and about 7 per cent in the Assembly bypolls.

On the other hand, Kamal Haasan s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) performed much better in urban seats while Seeman s Naam Tamilar Katchi, which garnered only about 3.86 per cent of the votes, performed consistently across all constituencies.

A look at the voting pattern confirms the spread. While the AMMK had relatively higher vote shares in rural regions like Ramanathapuram (13.30 per cent), Theni (11.8 per cent) and Sivaganga (11.3per cent), Haasan s party did well in the Chennai South, Central and North constituencies (10 to 12 per cent), Coimbatore (11.60 per cent) and Sriperumbudur (9.50 per cent).

Dhinakaran s political journey has made him the subject of immense speculation. After V K Sasikala, Dhinakaran s aunt currently serving time in a Bangalore prison after being convicted in a disproportionate assets case and he were ousted from the AIADMK shortly after former chief minister and party chief J Jayalalithaa s death in 2016, Dhinakaran put together the AMMK despite the negative speculation surrounding the Mannargudi family, as Sasikala s family is widely known.

Dhinakaran then contested the high profile RK Nagar bypoll in 2017, which was necessitated by Jayalalithaa s death. He won by a large margin and the DMK candidate had to forfeit his deposit. However, that victory remains the party s only triumph so far. Even in the bypolls for 22 seats in the state which were conducted along with the Lok Sabha polls, AMMK did not win any seats.

With the support of three AIADMK MLAs and the RK Nagar seat, Dhinakaran seems to be poised for challenges ahead as the ruling AIADMK strengthens its base with local body polls turning the corner. A close associate of Dhinakaran had said the party was confident of getting a double digit vote share in the Lok Sabha polls even if they couldn t win seats. We didn t even touch 10 per cent, he said.

Moreover, Thangatamilsevan in Theni and Palaniappan in Dharmapuri two star candidates of the AMMK failed to make it big even though the party was able to pull away AIADMK votes in few Assembly seats.

According to a senior AMMK leader, there may be two key reasons for the party s misfortune. People may have feared that voting for the AMMK will help the AIADMK and the BJP gain more seats. When they voted for DMK fearing an invasion of BJP, like Kerala voted for the Congress en masse, they may have also had a feeling that AMMK has nothing much to do in Delhi at this stage. And the party symbol was another detrimental factor. When we had a cooker symbol in a single bypoll in R K Nagar, we managed to popularise it quickly. But when they denied us the symbol this time and allotted a gift box as a symbol, we knew that there were challenges in making it popular in electorates across the state, he said.