Monthly Archives: May 2014

Tamil Nadu Results: Bench-marking a quadrangular contest

The 2014 Lok Sabha Elections in Tamil Nadu have been a landslide in favor of the AIADMK. Examining the relative strengths of the parties, however, is an interesting exercise given there’s likely to be a realignment ahead of the next Assembly Elections. The quadrangular contest also offers the best view of each party’s strength bench-marked against its own claims. Importantly, the results of the 39 seats in Tamil Nadu have been rendered irrelevant to government formation in New Delhi for the first time in two decades.

The chart below shows the median votes polled  per constituency when the respective parties finished in the top three[1].

Constituency Mean Votes

As expected, the ADMK is dominant. But what’s interesting is how the NDA alliance overestimated the strength of DMDK in seat allotment. The DMDK won no seats and had a median votes polled per constituency of 147,091. This party contested the maximum number of seats for the alliance in the state. The PMK, a party that prides itself as one that’s got strong pockets of influence, did prove it’s a better ally compared to the DMDK in Northern Tamil Nadu. The PMK’s median votes polled per constituency is 233,762. That’s a huge improvement from the DMDK.

What’s even more surprising is, the BJP did best for the alliance. The median votes polled for the BJP in those constituencies it contested is 256,786. Therefore, it’s the DMDK which dragged the alliance down. Not the BJP as it was widely expected. Even if one accounts for 30% of the votes accrued to the BJP is only because of a Modi effect, the party still has a better strike rate in terms of votes per constituency compared to the DMDK.

The INC shows up as bad as the DMDK. But that hides the fact that it shows up at all only twice in the table. So, any alliance with the INC in the future is one that’s likely to add about 5000 votes per assembly segment. One that can safely be excluded from any alliance.

The VCK and the PT, both Dalit parties, did fantastically well in their 3 constituencies. But their reach in terms of number of constituencies is limited. An alliance with the VCK also necessarily alienates the PMK vote base as Thol Thirumavalavan’s tragic loss in Chidambaram indicates. The Vanniyars rallying behind the PMK and the Dalit Votes being split between ADMK and VCK is the only hypothesis that explains the chart below,

Chidambaram

The median votes polled for the ADMK across Tamil Nadu per Constituency is 463,700. In Chidambaram, it drops to 429,536. Not an insignificant drop. Similarly, the median for the DMK is 278,304. But as it can be seen in Chidambaram, the VCK as an ally of the DMK does much better in polling 301,041. However, the PMK punches above its weight in this constituency — by about the same margin that AIADMK’s votes dropped from the median — showing the incompatibility of PMK and VCK as electoral allies in the near future.

While the PMK did better than the DMDK as an ally in Northern Tamil Nadu, the MDMK seems to have similarly done better in the southern parts. It’s polled a median 190,233 votes per constituency. Not as much as the PMK but still its median is 43,142 votes more than the DMDK’s per constituency. The others in that list show up in the table just once and therefore can be ignored.

Finally the DMK is still a stong second. But it’s never as strong a second in landslides and when without allies as the ADMK is. For instance, the median in 2004, when the result was a similar landslide with positions reversed, the ADMK’s position was about 5 percentage points higher than the DMK’s is in 2014. However, in 2004 there was no DMDK and therefore this comparison may overstate the ADMK’s importance slightly.

For a future alliance, based on the relative strengths of parties, the conventional wisdom of one major Dravidian Party allying with both the MDMK and the PMK to cover North and South TN holds. If the BJP is also thrown into the mix, it maybe quite a force. Except, that’d mean the major Dravidian Party will have to part with too many. The other option then, left for the other major Dravidian party, is the DMDK, INC, the Left and the two Dalit parties.

Of course not all of the above can be accommodated in just two formations and therefore there is likely to be a third spoke in the wheel. However, the larger point is: the incompatibility of some of the alliance members means the dominant ADMK is sitting pretty even in terms of alliance arithmetic for 2016. The DMDK is likely to be treated henceforth as an equal to PMK. Or worse. The MDMK may get a bit more respect. And most bizarrely, the BJP may not be the joke it used to be in Tamil Nadu. Its position seems to have been usurped by the INC.

[1] – I tabulated the data from the constituency wise results published by the EC. The spreadsheet can be found here.