US embassy cable - 06CHENNAI873

TAMIL NADU ELECTION: CLOSE CONTEST, BUT DMK- ALLIANCE MORE CONFIDENT AS CAMPAIGNING CONCLUDES

Identifier: 06CHENNAI873
Wikileaks: View 06CHENNAI873 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Chennai
Created: 2006-05-05 11:20:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PGOV PINR IN
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO7776
PP RUEHBI RUEHCI
DE RUEHCG #0873/01 1251120
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051120Z MAY 06
FM AMCONSUL CHENNAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8185
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 1638
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 4753
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 0500
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 1204
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 CHENNAI 000873 
 
SIPDIS 
 
C O R R E C T E D  C O P Y (CAPTIONS) 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, PINR, IN 
SUBJECT: TAMIL NADU ELECTION: CLOSE CONTEST, BUT DMK- 
ALLIANCE MORE CONFIDENT AS CAMPAIGNING CONCLUDES 
 
REF: CHENNAI 0772 AND PREVIOUS 
 
CHENNAI 00000873  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Growing DMK confidence of success in 
Tamil Nadu's May 8 election was evident in our 
contacts with party insiders during the final days of 
the campaign.  At the end of a long and intensive 
campaign battle, opinion polls and conversations with 
experts indicate a narrow lead for the DMK-led 
coalition that includes the Congress party.  But the 
AIADMK is counting on the silent majority, the assured 
women supporters and the voters with no party 
affiliation, to see them through.  Despite the 
advantages of a bigger coalition, DMK leader 
Karunanidhi's alleged nepotism, in particular, his 
grandnephew Union Telecom Minister Dayanithi Maran's 
alleged corrupt and high-handed business practices, 
has drawn much flak.  On the whole, the contest 
remains close but even a slight advantage in overall 
vote total can lead to a large majority of seats when 
the results are announced on May 11.  END SUMMARY. 
 
----------------------------------------- 
DMK: OUR AIM IS TO THROW JAYALALITHAA OUT 
----------------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) "We will form the government; that's for 
sure," DMK Treasurer Arcot Veerasamy told Post on May 
5.  Earlier, Sivaprakasam, one of the DMK's insider 
analysts who also runs the 24-hour control room in the 
party headquarters, briefed Post on the election using 
spreadsheets showing party and candidate strengths in 
each of the 234 constituencies: "We expect to win 190 
seats.  At the minimum, we will get 162," Sivaprakasam 
told Post with some confidence. 
 
3. (SBU) Sivaprakasam believes the key to success lies 
in the varying strength of the two alliances. 
Sivaprakasam told Post that DMK ally, the Pattali 
Makkal Katchi (PMK) party of the Vanniar caste is 
electorally more significant than Vaiko's MDMK party 
which left the DMK-led coalition to join with 
Jayalalithaa's AIADMK coalition.  This is because MDMK 
voters are scattered throughout the state while the 
PMK is concentrated in the northern districts where 
they can swing the results in contests for individual 
seats.  The leftist parties, CPI(M) and CPI, are very 
strong in a few constituencies, almost assuring that 
they will bring some winning seats to the DMK-led 
coalition.  And the Congress party by itself normally 
wins over 10 percent of the vote in Tamil Nadu. 
Additionally, according to Sivaprakasam, 90 percent of 
Muslims and Christians in the state will vote for the 
DMK coalition.  Sivaprakasam said removing Jayalalthaa 
from power is the sole objective of DMK leader M. 
Karunanidhi and to accomplish that objective, 
Karunanidhi went out of his way to keep the grand 
coalition intact.  He agreed to have his DMK party 
contest doubtful seats and gave away assured seats for 
his allies to contest, Sivaprakasam told Post.  He 
settled for a very low 130 seats for the DMK to 
contest, leaving all the rest to the allies.  To 
achieve the objective of unseating Jayalalithaa, 
"mentally we are prepared for a coalition government 
in Tamil Nadu," he said. 
 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
AIADMK: WE CAN'T MATCH THEIR MONEY, MEN, MEDIA POWER 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
4. (SBU) Former Home Secretary of Tamil Nadu and now 
an AIADMK Member of Parliament, Malaisamy (protect), 
admitted: "It is a tough fight.  Although we are the 
ruling party in Tamil Nadu, we are no match for the 
money, men, and media power the other side is bringing 
into the campaign." 
 
5. (SBU) According to Malaisamy, the AIADMK strategy 
banked on the 25-30 percent "neutral" (with no party 
affiliation) voters.  "The original thinking was that 
we might win 70-80 percent of the neutral voters which 
would defeat the strength of the six party alliance of 
the Opposition.  Now we are hoping for at least 50 
percent of the neutral voters to at least match them". 
Malaisamy believes the DMK coalition has the 
additional advantage of having many leaders to 
campaign.  "Karunanithi's family alone has three 
leaders; then there are five other party leaders, 13 
 
CHENNAI 00000873  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
Union ministers, and leaders from the Center.  We have 
only Madam (Jayalalithaa) and Vaiko to campaign." 
Malaisamy believes the AIADMK enjoys a lead in the 
southern and western districts and, if the alliance 
can manage to get at lest 50 percent of the seats in 
the northern and Chennai areas, "ultimately we may 
have the edge."  He said the party banks heavily on 
the women voters to achieve this. 
 
-------------------------------------- 
RECENT OPINION POLLS FEED DMK OPTIMISM 
-------------------------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) The latest opinion polls suggest a growing 
tend toward the DMK alliance.  The Week/C-Voter poll, 
surveying 3053 respondents in 117 constituencies from 
April 10-20, projected a 3 percent lead in vote share 
for the DMK coalition (45 percent over the AIADMK's 42 
percent).  In terms of seats this translates into 130- 
138 seats for the former and 87-95 for AIADMK.  The 
second phase of the pre-poll survey by the School of 
Media Studies, Loyola College, projected 45.1 percent 
votes for the DMK alliance and 39.5 percent for the 
AIADMK.  According to this survey, the DMK alliance 
could pick up 134 seats. 
 
7. (SBU) In the last round of Post's canvassing of 
opinions, a majority of the bank officers, trade 
unionists, firemen, lawyers, former politicians and 
journalists we spoke with in different parts of Tamil 
Nadu, indicate the same trend.  P.S. Joseph of India 
Today, who undertook a tour of the interior parts of 
northern Tamil Nadu along with journalist colleagues, 
also returned with the same finding.  Nonetheless, 
there were dissenters, who claimed that silent women 
voters would hold the key to a surprise victory for 
Jayalalithaa and the AIADMK coalition. 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
KARUNANIDHI'S FAMILY RULE, A TARGET OF ATTACK 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
7. (SBU) Union Telecom Minister and Karunanidhi's 
grand-nephew, the U.S.-educated Dayanithi Maran, has 
drawn much flak from the opposition, particularly the 
fiery campaigner Vaiko.  An Indian Express story 
alleging Maran's arm-twisting tactics on the Tatas 
obviously did much damage to the DMK.  More than 
Karunanidhi's unpopular son Stalin, Maran has emerged 
as a liability to the coalition.  However, Prime 
Minister Manmohan Singh, who made a listless campaign 
speech at Chennai on May 4, chose to ignore the 
allegations and showered praises on his young cabinet 
colleague.  Indian Express Correspondent Arun believes 
that the critical reports about Maran might not have 
impacted the villagers, who would not have understood 
the details but only gotten a vague sense that 
Karunanidhi is helping his family - not necessarily a 
bad thing in the eyes of many Tamils. 
 
----------------------------------------- 
PONDICHERRY: CONGRESS THE LEADING PARTNER 
----------------------------------------- 
 
8. (SBU) Pondicherry, a Tamil speaking former French 
enclave, now a Union Territory of India (not a full- 
fledged state, but one in which the Union Government 
has more administrative powers), located south of 
Chennai, will also complete the election to its 30- 
seat assembly on May 8.  In Pondicherry, the Congress 
leads the coalition with the DMK, PMK and others as 
junior partners.  On the opposition side, the AIADMK 
has an additional ally, a local faction of the 
Congress party. 
 
9. (SBU) Chief Minister Rangasamy, a low-profile 
Congressman who usually tours his districts on a motor- 
bike, is popular among poor voters, although some 
businesses consider him not sufficiently dynamic. 
Attaching importance to a small "state" where Congress 
has chances of remaining in power, Congress President 
Sonia Gandhi campaigned in Pondicherry on April 25, 
hoping her strong support to Rangasamy would help 
limit the damage caused by ambitious dissidents within 
the party. 
 
--------------------------------------------- - 
SRI LANKAN VIOLENCE NOT AN ISSUE IN TAMIL NADU 
ELECTION 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
 
CHENNAI 00000873  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
10. (SBU) The recent escalation in violence in Sri 
Lanka has not been a campaign issue in Tamil Nadu. 
Neither coalition feels they have anything to gain by 
introducing the subject which is not uppermost in the 
minds of most Tamil Nadu residents.  Additionally, 
each coalition may have some internal disagreement 
among coalition partners on the issue of Sri Lankan 
Tamils.  For example, Vaiko, now part of the AIADMK 
coalition, has long been thought to have connections 
to the LTTE and was once jailed by current coalition 
partner Jayalalithaa for expressing support for the 
group.  On the DMK side, the PMK party also has been 
thought to have connections with the LTTE while the 
DMK distanced itself from the group after the 
assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. 
 
--------------------------------------- 
WHAT'S IN THE MIND OF THE SILENT VOTER? 
--------------------------------------- 
 
11. (SBU) COMMENT:  As Union Finance Minister 
Chidambaram observed, the DMK manifesto has emerged as 
the real star of the Tamil Nadu election campaign. 
Jayalalithaa's desperation seems evident in her 
attempts to match the wild promises in the manifesto. 
In a last minute move she has now promised to give 
four grams of gold to every poor girl getting married. 
The silent voters who figure in the AIADMK's dreams 
remain the imponderable, whose opinion will be heard 
only after the counting of votes on May 11.  If one 
goes by the levels of confidence on both sides, 
though, the DMK will definitely be the winner. END 
COMMENT. 
 
12. (SBU) Post will report on the outcome of the 
election and its implications for U.S. interests after 
results are announced on May 11. 
 
HOPPER 

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