US embassy cable - 06CHENNAI969

DMK AND CONGRESS PREVAIL IN TAMIL NADU AS JAYALALITHAA EXITS THE SCENE FOR NOW

Identifier: 06CHENNAI969
Wikileaks: View 06CHENNAI969 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Chennai
Created: 2006-05-16 08:00:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PGOV PINR IN
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO5710
RR RUEHBI RUEHCI
DE RUEHCG #0969/01 1360800
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160800Z MAY 06
FM AMCONSUL CHENNAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8317
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 1672
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 4768
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 0515
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 1216
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 CHENNAI 000969 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, PINR, IN 
SUBJECT: DMK AND CONGRESS PREVAIL IN TAMIL NADU AS 
JAYALALITHAA EXITS THE SCENE FOR NOW 
 
REF: CHENNAI 0873 AND PREVIOUS 
 
1. SUMMARY: (SBU) The DMK-alliance, led by 82 year old 
M. Karunanidhi, won a closer than normal Tamil Nadu 
state assembly election and will set up Tamil Nadu's 
first minority government in memory.  Their victory 
was assured by a cohesive coalition of parties with 
Congress making an especially strong showing.  Aside 
from the AIADMK party which lost power, other losers 
in the election were MDMK leader Vaiko and the BJP 
party which won an almost invisible two percent of the 
vote.  Business leaders are generally positive about 
the outlook for a good business climate in the state 
under the new administration.  END SUMMARY. 
 
--------------- 
THE FINAL TALLY 
--------------- 
 
2. (U) In the contest for 234 Tamil Nadu assembly 
seats, the final tally of seats won by each alliance 
is as follows: 
 
DMK Alliance  -  163 
AIADMK Alliance  -  69 
Others  -  2 
 
The DMK alliance won 45 percent of the final vote 
while the AIADMK alliance won 40 percent.  The DMK 
party, to assure cohesiveness of its coalition, was 
generous in pre-campaign negotiations with alliance 
partners, giving them large numbers of winnable seats 
to contest, and by doing so, almost assuring that the 
DMK itself would be unable to win the 118 seats 
required for a majority.  DMK made a good show, 
winning 96 of the 132 seats it contested but, as 
expected, fell far short of having a majority of its 
own. 
 
----------------------------------- 
DMK WILL LEAD A MINORITY GOVERNMENT 
----------------------------------- 
 
3. (SBU) For the first time since Dravidian parties 
entered the scene of Tamil Nadu politics in the 1960s, 
Tamil Nadu will have a minority government, led by DMK 
party veteran M. Karunanidhi, and supported from 
outside the government by election allies the 
Congress, PMK, CPI(M), and CPI parties.  Given the 
numbers of seats won by each party (DMK - 96, Congress 
- 34, PMK - 18, CPI(M) - 13, CPI - 10), the DMK and 
Congress have a comfortable majority in the 234 seat 
assembly without the other partners, and some Tamil 
Nadu Congress party leaders openly expressed 
disappointment at not being coalition partners in the 
government with the DMK, rather than supporting from 
the outside.  But from the viewpoint of the national 
Congress party, it makes more sense to support from 
the outside to assure that the DMK remains dependent 
upon their support and to assure that local Congress 
party officials remain loyal to the Congress and not 
be subsumed by the DMK.  The Congress position in 
Tamil Nadu will be not unlike that of the CPI (M) 
position in the center: supporting from the outside 
and in doing so, hoping to have influence on policy 
direction.  Significantly, given the numbers of seats 
each party holds, DMK could still maintain its 
majority without the Congress party with the help of 
its other coalition parties the PMK, CPI(M) and CPI. 
 
------------------------- 
WHY THE DMK COALITION WON 
------------------------- 
 
4. (SBU) There were three primary drivers of the DMK- 
led victory.  First and foremost was the coalition 
itself.  Based on historic voting patterns, the DMK 
coalition had an almost insurmountable edge from the 
start.  The final results were very close to those 
forecast by DMK strategist Sivaprakasam in a pre- 
election meeting with Post (Reftel).  Clearly there 
remains in Tamil Nadu a strong tendency to vote along 
traditional caste, religious or social group lines. 
The second factor was the aggressive party manifesto, 
full of promises of free rice, free television sets 
and other giveaways, issued by the DMK.  The bold DMK 
manifesto seized the momentum from the AIADMK early in 
 
CHENNAI 00000969  002 OF 003 
 
 
the campaign and AIADMK was never able to recover. 
The third factor, still present but perhaps less 
influential in this election, was the traditional anti- 
incumbency factor.  The two major Dravidian parties in 
Tamil Nadu have tended to alternate in power for more 
than twenty years now. 
 
--------------------- 
WHY JAYALALITHAA LOST 
--------------------- 
 
5. (SBU) But the AIADMK's loss wasn't all the DMK's 
doing.  Some of AIADMK Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's 
actions during her term in office came back to haunt 
her in the election.  Post-election statistics show 
that Christians and Muslims voted for the DMK in 
overwhelming numbers.  Under Jayalalithaa's 
leadership, Tamil Nadu instituted an Anti-Conversion 
Act in 2002.  After the disastrous results for the 
AIADMK in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, Jayalalithaa 
repealed the act but leaders of these religious 
minorities didn't forget and urged their followers to 
vote for DMK.  The almost 200,000 state government 
employees that Jayalalithaa fired in early 2004, only 
to later reinstate, didn't forget either.  And 
finally, there was Vaiko, the charismatic MDMK leader 
who quit the DMK alliance in dramatic fashion to join 
with AIADMK just before the campaign started.  After 
initial enthusiasm for his bold move, voters seemed to 
question Vaiko's motives and integrity, especially 
since he had been jailed by Jayalalithaa for 19 months 
only three years before.  In the end, he brought 
little to the AIADMK coalition, winning just six 
seats. 
 
----------------------------------- 
OTHERS WINNERS: CONGRESS, VIJAYKANT 
----------------------------------- 
 
6. (SBU) The Congress party made a strong showing in 
the elections, winning 34 of the 48 seats they 
contested.  While they remain far behind the two major 
Dravidian parties, the DMK and AIADMK, in popularity 
(they won only 8 percent of the total vote), they have 
established themselves as clearly the third most 
significant party in the state and have demonstrated 
that they can win in targeted constituencies.  Also 
winning 8 percent of the total vote was surprising 
newcomer Vijaykant.  He contested 232 seats compared 
to Congress' 48 so his 8 percent total is not as 
impressive as that of Congress, but he demonstrated 
his appeal as an alternative to the traditional 
Dravidian parties.  This self-characterization as an 
alternative to the traditional parties was well 
received by the voters and he may be a force in the 
future of Tamil Nadu politics. 
 
------------------------ 
OTHER LOSERS: VAIKO, BJP 
------------------------ 
 
7. (SBU) "Charismatic" has been a common adjective 
used to describe MDMK leader Vaiko but some of that 
charisma was definitely lost in this campaign. 
Vaiko's MDMK party won only 6 of 35 seats it contested 
and won about 6 percent of the vote.  More significant 
for Vaiko personally, though, was his loss of 
credibility.  Many voters viewed him as an 
unprincipled opportunist when he left the DMK alliance 
to join hands with Jayalalithaa who had imprisoned him 
in 2002.  During the campaign, the DMK-controlled Sun 
TV Network frequently replayed a speech Vaiko made 
upon his release from prison in which he railed 
against the "fascist Jayalalithaa government."  The 
effect was not positive for either Jayalalithaa or 
Vaiko.  The other big loser was the BJP party.  Never 
a strong presence in Tamil Nadu, the BJP sunk to a new 
low this election, winning none of the 225 seats it 
contested and just two percent of the total vote. 
 
----------------------------- 
U.S. BUSINESS' TAKE: POSITIVE 
----------------------------- 
 
8. (SBU) Before the start of the election campaign, 
many U.S. businesses operating in the state told Post 
that their preference was for the status quo.  They 
 
CHENNAI 00000969  003 OF 003 
 
 
had worked effectively with the AIADMK government 
which they felt had generally maintained a positive 
business climate in the state.  Now, with the reality 
of a DMK-led government, many feel that the business 
climate is likely to be equally as good or perhaps 
better under the new administration.  They recognize 
that many of the foreign-owned businesses now 
operating in Tamil Nadu established themselves here 
under a previous DMK administration.  They expect the 
business-friendly environment to continue and are 
hopeful that the new government will do better than 
the previous one with regard to infrastructure 
development.  They base that hope on the fact that the 
local administration is now aligned with the party in 
power at the center rather than at odds with it.  And 
they are especially optimistic about the fact that 
Tamil Nadu native, Union Finance Minister P. 
Chidambram, was so supportive of the DMK during the 
campaign, feeling that he may be in a position to 
positively influence infrastructure development in the 
state. 
 
9. (SBU) COMMENT:  Enthusiasm about the role that DMK 
leader Karunanidhi's grand-nephew and Union IT and 
Communication Minister Dayanithi Maran may take in 
development projects is more mixed.  Maran proved to 
be a liability during the campaign when the Indian 
Express ran a story describing his arm-twisting 
tactics while representing the family business in 
negotiations with the Tata Group.  Former MP and 
AIADMK spokesperson Dr. V. Maitreyan told Post that 
the DMK family business will now be involved in all 
new development in the state and demand their pound of 
flesh (or allocation of shares as is alleged in the 
Tata case).  Others feel that Maran's influence in New 
Delhi can help the state.  Both views may be partly 
correct.  END COMMENT 
 
CANDADAI 

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