Despite mounting a sustained and vociferous attack on the AIADMK’s prominent faces, the DMK has drawn a blank in the Coimbatore region. Its candidates were defeated in all 10 Assembly seats including Singanallur, the lone constituency it had won in 2016. This is the second time in a decade the party, which is set to form the next government, is facing such a debacle.
The DMK leadership had gone all out to target outgoing Local Administration Minister S.P. Velumani and Deputy Speaker Pollachi V.Jayaraman. Yet voters gave the AIADMK a sweep.
AIADMK spokesperson Kovai K. Selvaraj said the sweep was an endorsement that the voters did not believe the DMK’s charges. He told The Hindu that the party’s strong cadre base helped it win. Claiming that the AIADMK has around 4.7 lakh members in Coimbatore district, he asserted that their groundwork led to the victory.
“Many parties would not even have workers in some villages, but for us, there would be between 150 and 200 party workers for each polling booth,” Mr. Selvaraj said. These cadres countered the “false campaign” against Mr.Velumani and Mr.Jayaraman, he added.
The AIADMK won nine seats, while Coimbatore South was bagged by Vanathi Srinivasan of BJP, who defeated Makkal Needhi Maiam leader Kamal Haasan by a slender margin.
A DMK functionary, requesting anonymity, said the results showed voters from the Kongu Vellala Gounder community, a dominant caste in the district, did not favour the party.
“People from this community feel that they would be more secure with the AIADMK in power,” he said lamenting that his party had not ensured adequate representation for Gounders in party posts or administrative posts when in power. The AIADMK had cultivated the community handing them plum portfolios at the State and district level, he felt.
He gave the example of R. Sakkarapani of the DMK, a member of the Kongu Vellala Gounder, who won for the sixth consecutive time from Oddanchathram in Dindigul district. “He was not given a cabinet berth in 1996 and 2006,” the DMK leader said.
“The caste factor could have worked. But we need to study the results in detail,” said Coimbatore MP PR Natarajan of the CPI(M), an ally of the DMK.
There was also a feeling that the outgoing Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, who belonged to the Gounder community, was accessible to all and some of the remarks by the DMK leaders made during the campaign could have also influenced voters.
The victory margin in most constituencies in the district is less than 12,500 votes.
A trade union leader said the DMK front lacked a commanding force to foresee the campaign in the district. For instance, eight unions belonging to one industrial sector gave their support to the DMK front. “No one came forward and asked us to work for the front or spoke to us. We have about 70,000 votes across the district. We could not even meet all the candidates,” he said.