Trends showed the DMK still leading in counting of votes in the Tamil Nadu Assembly polls on Sunday. At 12pm, the DMK-led coalition was leading in 129 seats of the 216 seats for which trends were available. The Tamil Nadu Assembly has 234 seats. The NDA, led by the AIADMK, was leading in 97 seats.
DMK supporters burst crackers outside Anna Arivalayam, the party headquarters in Chennai.
The trends suggest a tight fight between the DMK and the AIADMK, which has been in power for 10 years. The 'whitewash' victory secured by DMK-led front in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and growing anti-incumbency sentiment against the AIADMK had led to speculation of a sweep for the DMK.
Going by the early trends, DMK's chances of forming a government on its own are at stake. In 2006, the DMK won in 96 constituencies and had to form a minority government, with support of allies such as the Congress, PMK and Left parties.
If the early trends hold and a similar situation emerges, the question is whether DMK chief M.K. Stalin can form a minority government and run the show? Also Stalin is not the kind of political operator his father, M. Karunanidhi, was. So the Congress and other coalition partners might not agree to extend support from outside like they did in 2006.
The DMK appears to be struggling in the western region of Tamil Nadu. The DMK is leading only in a handful of seats in the western region, such as Erode (East) and Erode (West) and Anthiyur. Ironically, the DMK's performance in the western region in the 2016 Assembly election was considered a factor in its loss that year. As per trends at 12pm, in the western region, the DMK front was leading in 12 of the seats in the region, while the AIADMK and its allies were ahead in 29. This was a marked contrast to the north, south and central regions, all where the DMK had a substantial edge in leads.
Blessing in disguise?
While the AIADMK is staring at defeat, Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami has reason to smile. Palaniswami is leading by over 24,500 votes in Edappadi, his political base since 1989. On the other hand, Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam was trailing in Bodinayakanur. The 'respectable' performance of the AIADMK is expected to strengthen Palaniswami's claims to retain leadership of the AIADMK, which had seen an uneasy balance of power between Palaniswami and Panneerselvam since early 2017.
(With inputs from Lakshmi Subramanian)