Tamil Nadu's 'Third Front' means nothing electorally - unless one man decides to join them

So, is this an entirely wasted political effort?
Tamil Nadu's 'Third Front' means nothing electorally - unless one man decides to join them
Tamil Nadu's 'Third Front' means nothing electorally - unless one man decides to join them
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After an initial delay and reported disagreements within the political parties, the People’s Welfare Front - comprising of MDMK, CPI, CPM and VCK – formalised into a political alliance, the People’s Welfare Alliance on November 2.  The Alliance also released a Common Minimum Program of the electoral alliance. Touted to be the “third front” of Tamil Nadu politics ahead of the 2016 Assembly polls, the Alliance has distanced itself from both the DMK and ADMK, positioning itself as a front which is neither tainted with corruption nor authoritarian.

It is but a foregone conclusion that the Alliance, at this stage, has very little electoral relevance.

In the previous two electoral polls, General Elections 2014 and Assembly Elections 2011, the AIADMK came out with resounding victories riding on a wave which even swept way the mighty DMK, reducing it to 23 MLAs and 0 Lok Sabha MPs. Quite obviously then, the People’s Welfare Alliance with 19 MLAs (all belonging to the Left parties) and no Lok Sabha MPs, has no political teeth.

That parties or alliances have received a drubbing in the previous polls does not mean they are irrelevant. The BJP, after all, did make a resounding comeback in 2014. But even so, the PWA does not inspire much confidence either among people or political watchers.

You don’t need to be an expert to state that Vaiko is largely a diminished force politically, surviving solely based on his own image of raising issues and standing by them consistently. He is also facing a credibility problem, having jumped ship several times. In 2014, he contested with the BJP. Now, he swears by the Left.

Similarly, the VCK is a Dalit-based party with pull only in a few northern districts. Left parties are better off than the other two parties with vote-banks in some areas – but let’s remember, their healthy Assembly count is thanks to their alliance with AIADMK in 2011.

So, is this an entirely wasted political effort?

It could end up being, unless they are able to bring one man into their fold – Vijayakanth. And PWA leaders know that.

If the sole aim was to defeat Jayalalithaa, then the best scenario really is a united opposition, and even DMK chief Karunanidhi agrees. In a recent interview to Prem Shanker of Economic Times, he says the PWA type alliances at this stage as ‘aarmaba sooruthanam’ and hinting that parties will fall in line soon, joining either the DMK or AIADMK. But members of the PWA don’t share that confidence, at this stage, they are very clear they cannot go with the Dravidian behemoths. They cannot go with a BJP-PMK alliance either, since that would be unacceptable to both Dalit party VCK and the Left.

That’s why the only other option is Vijayakanth.

With 29 MLAs, a vote share of 8% in 2011 and 5% in 2014, Vijayakanth would be a significant addition to the PWA, although he fought with the ADMK in 2011 and NDA in 2014.  Vaiko has openly called for both the re-grouped TMC and Vijayakanth’s DMDK to join the PWA.

What leaders of the PWA now hope for is that if they are able to bring Vijayakanth in, then they might be able to win at least 50 seats, which could give them bargaining power in the post-election scenario.

Vijayakanth has much to gain and lose from joining the PWA.

On the one hand, he will making an enemy out of the BJP, for the BJP hopes to have its own front with PMK and DMDK, a fourth front. Insiders say that Vijayakanth is facing pressure from his family to stay with the BJP since then they would be on the right side of the divide at lease with one power centre. If he deserts BJP for the PWA, then he will have both the centre and state governments breathing fire down his neck.

On the other hand however, perhaps this will give the much needed impetus for Vijayakanth. In the PWA, he will be the undisputed leader and understood to be the CM candidate. He can pit himself against Stalin and Jayalalithaa, and not be stuck with an internal opponent in Anbumani Ramdoss as that would be the case if he sticks to BJP-PMK alliance.  Further, with the PWA, Vijayakanth would be able to contest in far more seats. Whether he wins seats or not, it will be a major boost to him in the long run, as he would be able to break into new territories.

We have to wait a few more months before we know which way Vijayakanth will sway. While Jayalalithaa still stands tall as the undisputed frontrunner in the race, Vijayakanth is in a position to decide how far back the others will fall. 

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