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Tamil Nadu Lok Sabha 2019 Opinion Polls: Take them with not just a pinch but a sack full of salt

Given the organizational strength of ADMK in South TN & Cauvery delta region where a majority of the too close to call seats are from, NDA, after all, may end up with much higher seats than what’s being predicted by the pollsters.

If you accept the numbers on face value, the opinion polls done by the “Political Pundits who sit in the Air Conditioning rooms” as PM Modi refers to them as, one would think that NDA is heading for a massive drubbing in Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu is one state where the pollsters have ended with egg on their faces more often than not and they just may add another feather to their cap in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in this crucial state that sends fifth largest contingent of MP’s to the parliament only behind UP, Maharashtra, West Bengal & Bihar.

So, what are the latest opinion polls forecasting for the upcoming elections & let’s look at why we may need to take them with not just a pinch but a bag full of salt.

Opinion polls for 2019 Lok Sabha Elections: Tamil Nadu

Let’s begin by understanding the electoral zones and the caste demographics of the state in a little more detail. Tamil Nadu can be divided broadly into 4 different electoral zones viz. North TN, Kongu region in the west, Cauvery delta region and South TN. Contrary to what many think, each of these regions has its own set of issues, caste dynamics and over a period of time, the main regional political parties have established their own foothold in each of these regions primarily based on caste polarization.

Despite changing social configurations, the DMK continues to be a largely urban-based party with strongholds in the northern districts among organised workers, backward classes and parts of Cauvery delta region and the AIADMK, from the time of its inception, remains a distinctly rural party with a base in the south & west  among the uneducated, unorganised labour, women and Dalits. Emergence of Dravidian identity, caste based parties like PMK (vanniyars), Viduthalai Siruthaigal( Dalits) a party with dalit base have dramatically reduced the support base of both the national parties Congress & BJP barring a few pockets.

Source: The Hindu

After the demise of Kalaignar Karunanidhi & Puratchi Thalaivi Jayalalitha, virtually no single party can claim to be strong across the entire state & the alliance arithmetic takes precedence over other logical issues including governance.  As we all know, no one knows this game better than Mr Amit Shah who swung into action early this year to bring together seemingly warring parties not long ago and stitched an umbrella NDA coalition led by  CM Mr Edapadi Palaniswamy. The NDA alliance not only looks formidable arithmetically but more importantly complimenting each other in different regions. To put this in context, the NDA alliance had combined vote share exceeding 50% in 31 out of the 39 constituencies across the state in 2014 polls! 

The exact line up of the National Democratic Alliance includes BJP, ADMK, Pattali Makkal Katchi led by Ramadoss, Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam led by Captain Vijayakanth and a couple more smaller caste parties. The DMK, Congress & the left parties who have been together for a while now make up the UPA coalition led by Mr Stalin. CPI, CPM and a couple more caste parties make up the rest of the coalition. So why are the National pollsters forecasting a rout for NDA despite very strong arithmetic for the NDA? Lack of understanding of the caste dynamics, seeming double anti-incumbency for the ADMK in the state as well as the BJP in the centre & buying into the massive propaganda blaming BJP & MODI for all the ills of the state unleashed in the Tamil MSM, majority which is controlled by the DMK & the social media could be some reasons for this. 

Based on the analysis of the opinion polls conducted by Chanakya TV owned by Mr. Rangaraj Pandey & a couple more local agencies who have feet on the ground, talking to neutral analysts and applying my own logic, am presenting my view on how I see things are stacked up in TN with just over a week to go for the polls. 

So, with almost half of the seats falling in the too close to call category & well within the margin of error, the NDA, after all, may not fare as badly as its widely believed in the MSM. But this shouldn’t come as a big surprise given the huge swing needed by the UPA in 80% of the seats to beat the arithmetic. So, what are the factors in these elections that could swing the too close to call seats?

1. Top of the list has to be the “last minute” voter management which has now become institutionalized in TN elections. Given the past track record, whichever party have wider election war chest & organization support to manage the logistics can get a handsome share of the 19 too close to call seats. Given that most of the too close to call seats have strong arithmetic in favour of NDA & the fact that both ADMK & BJP are power in both state and centre respectively, NDA has a clear advantage in this factor.

2. votes that got split in 2014 between ADMK & DMK are now sure to consolidate against NDA for obvious reasons, counter consolidation of the majority communities in favour of NDA may help it convert some of the too close to call seats.

3. Several Hindu rhetoric & policies of DMK and their partners have enraged the Hindu community all over TN. There has been a widespread protest in many parts of the state over the recent utterances by the Dravida Kazhagam idealogue demeaning Lord Krishna and blatant appeasement of minority community by the DMK in their manifesto promising have only added to the anger. 

4. Tamil Nadu has been one of the two states, other one being Kerala, in the country where Mr Rahul Gandhi has been consistently leading ahead of Mr Modi in popularity votes and much of it is also because of the anti-Modi sentiment whipped up by the Tamil MSM majority of which is controlled by DMK. Even if a small fraction of the people vote for choosing a PM rather than local parties and issues, it could impact many of them too close to call seats.

5. Performance of AMMK, the rebel faction of the ADMK led by Mr TTV Dhinakaran, Makkal Nidhi Maiyam led by Kamalhaasan and Tamil nationalistic party Naam Thamizhar Katchi led by Seeman who are contesting in all of the 39 seats. Even though they won’t be able to win any seats, they are expected to get a good chunk of votes and the unknown factor is whose votes will they take away! As these parties are untested, it’s any body’s guess on how this factor may play out in each of the 19 close seats. 

Even though it’s a head to head contest in many of the seats across 39, the issues at play are multi-dimensional and the vote share difference is within the margin of error, any predictions based on howsoever scientifically done survey can be off by a long way. Tamil Nadu CM Mr Edapadi Palanisamy has surprised many including this columnist with his shrewd political management skills outmanoeuvring not just heavyweights within his party like Ms Sasikala, Dy. CM Mr O. Paneerselvam and Mr T.T.V. Dhinakaran in the internal power struggle that ensued following the demise of Ms J. Jayalalitha but also warded off attempts by Mr M.K.Stalin from DMK & the Congress ecosystem over the last two years to unseat him from the CM’s chair.

Having consolidated his position as the first among equals in ADMK, the CM has been leading from the front in the campaign and working hard to establish himself as also a leader with the mass base. Given the organizational strength of ADMK in South TN & Cauvery delta region where a majority of the too close to call seats are from, NDA, after all, may end up with much higher seats than what’s being predicted by the pollsters.

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Rajesh Chakram
Bits Alumni,IT executive, Occasional blogger,   History lover, Political animal, Indic supporter, Unapologetic Modi Bhakt. Tweets from Rajesh_Chakram

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