The Clean Reverse Sweep in Tamil Nadu

NOt in cricket, but in elections, Tamil Nadu is known for its reverse sweep, or for that matter even clean reverse sweep. The 1991 and 1996 elections are a proof of this. In 1991, the Congress-AIADMK combine had bagged all the 39 seats in the state, Congress winning 28 and AIADMK 11, and in 1996 it was the DMK-TMC(M)-Left combine that bagged all the 39 seats (DMK 17, TMC-M 20 and CPI-2). However, in 1998 and 1999 election this tendency remained not so clean, but it was a reverse sweep all the same. For instance in 1998, the AIADMK-BJP combine bagged 25 seats (AIADMK-18, BJP-7) and TMC-DMK-PMK-MDMK-Left got 14 seats (DMK-5, TMC-3, PMK-3, MDMK-3). But in 1999, the result was just the opposite, with the DMK-BJP-MDMK-PMK combine getting 28 seats and the Congress-ADMK-Left combine limited to 11 seats only. Psephologists were of the opinion that the clean reverse sweep trend had bidden farewell to Tamil Nadu and therefore some of them were even allocating an increase in seats to the BJP-ADMK combine. All these predictions fell flat and Tamil Nadu plus Pondicherry played the biggest role in effecting the crucial 80 seat difference between the NDA and the Congress-led alliance. And it also helped Left parties to win four seats.

So, it is not an alien phenomenon, which Tamil Nadu has just re-embraced this time, by putting all the 39 seats in the DMK-Congress-Left combine’s bag, and the Pondicherry seat in addition. What was really new was the margin by which the AIADMK-front candidates were defeated. In as many as 27 constituencies the margin was around 1-2 lakh. In as many as 9 constituencies it was over 2 lakh. Only in two constituencies, Chidambaram (SC) and Tindivanam, the victory margin was less than 1 lakh and it was a close contest in the lone seat Periyakulam, where ADMK candidate TTV Dinakaran lost the seat to JM Rashid Aaron of Congress by a margin of 21,155 votes.

With this humiliating defeat, Jayalalitha has been humbled to an unprecedented extent. Five days after the verdict, when she went to the office on 18 May, she issued a five-page statement virtually rolling back all that she did during the past three years. Paragraph after paragraph, she announced the rollback of her decisions, nullifying the entire economic and fiscal reforms process she set in motion after assuming power. Thus she implicitly accepted that the unpopular decisions had cost the ruling AIADMK all seats in parliamentary elections.

Jayalaitha restored free power supply to farmers and hut dwellers, a promise fulfilled by the new Andhra Chief Minister. Secondly, the income ceiling of Rs.5000 a month for eligibility to buy commodities under the public distribution has been removed, and the ‘H’ card scheme stands null and void. No coupons are needed to buy rice at ration shops now. Free bus pass scheme has been introduced for all students. She withdrew all punishments and disciplinary proceedings, imposed on government employees and teachers for joining the July 2003 strike. All cases filed against the strike leaders under the infamous Tamilnadu Essential Services Act (TESMA) will be withdrawn. It seems that TESMA may altogether be repealed in the days to come. However, she has remained silent on POTA.

Perhaps the crucial political decision among today’s withdrawals is the repeal of the controversial Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Act 2002. To reestablish friendly relations with the media, she has withdrawn all the defamation cases against The Hindu, Murasoli and others.

Recall that the same Chief Minister was “reluctant to retract her steps even on humanitarian grounds” till the election results came. However, according to the MDMK leader Vaiko, all these moves amounted to ‘worshipping the Sun after becoming blind’.

Reinstatement of 10,000 road maintenance workers and employees of Khadicraft and withdrawal of GOs on surrender leave, bonus, dearness allowance and pension are the demands which are being pressed in this favourable scenario.

-- BBP