A SWOT analysis of DMK vs AIADMK in Tamil Nadu

The stage is set for Tamil Nadu Lok Sabha polls with the state going to polls in a single-phase elections on Friday, April 19, in the first phase of polling for 102 seats across 12 states and union territories. The key contest is between the two Dravidian parties – DMK and AIADMK leading their alliances. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under the leadership of K Annamalai has cobbled an alliance of its own and hopes to throw a surprise.

MK Stalin-led DMK, a key constituent of the INDIA alliance, includes the Congress and the Left Parties in the alliance. Edappadi K Palaniswami-led AIADMK is also hoping to make a mark in the 2024 Lok Sabha poll.

Here’s a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) analysis of the two major political parties in Tamil Nadu:

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)

STRENGTHS: DMK President and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Stalin continues to maintain a resolute anti-BJP stance, particularly on contentious issues like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Anti-incumbency is not a factor against the ruling party, which remains popular and ably backed by its robust organisational structure statewide. What further bolsters DMK’s position is the unflinching support from its allies, including the Congress and the Left parties, further uplifted by a symbiotic alliance and not a parasitic one.

WEAKNESS: The succession of MK Stalin after M Karunanidhi in DMK strengthens the charge of ‘family rule’ and ‘dynasty’ politics often made by the main rivals AIADMK and the BJP.  Allegations of graft against DMK ministers and the ongoing probe involving Balaji, KKSSR Ramachandran, Thangam Thennarasu, and Periyasamy further dent the party’s claim of a clean image. Although DMK has dismissed Jaffer Sadiq, an office-bearer from the party in connection with allegations of links with an international drug cartel, the issue is highlighted often by Leader of Opposition Edappadi K Palaniswami to target the DMK. The opposition AIADMK has also been targeting the DMK on the Cauvery River water issue, alleging that it hasn’t secured the state’s rights in Mekedatu issue as the Cauvery Water Management Authority took up the dam proposal of Karnataka for discussion and referred to the Central Water Commission.

OPPORTUNITIES: The Stalin government implemented social welfare measures including fare-free travel in state-run buses for women could consolidate their vote in its favour. The state government has also been able to attract a lot of investment in the manufacturing sector that could create job opportunities. The exit of O Panneerselvam, a leader belonging to the Mukkulathor community, may go against the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu’s southern districts.

THREATS: The Palaniswami-led AIADMK is a power to reckon in the state and commands considerable clout in the western part of Tamil Nadu along with the presence of a well-organised party structure. The opposition has been targeting the DMK government on sugarcane and paddy procurement at higher prices, which remains an unfulfilled poll promise. AIADMK fighting elections without an alliance with the BJP may help the opposition’s cause and strengthen its claim of representing a true Dravidian ideology devoid of dynasty politics. The sharp rise of the BJP under state chief K Annamalai and the strong response his padayatra received could throw electoral surprises for both Dravidian parties.

All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)

STRENGTHS: Palaniswami has asserted himself as a strong leader and targeted both the ruling DMK and the BJP while championing his state’s interests. The former Tamil Nadu CM’s firm stance against CAA will also help project a secular image for his party. On the crucial Cauvery river water issue, Palaniswami has been seen prioritising Tamil Nadu’s rights including his administration’s initiatives, for instance, the Kudimaramathu scheme for water conservation and declaring the Cauvery delta region as a protected agricultural zone. During his tenure as the CM, he introduced a 7.5% quota for state school students in medical courses.

WEAKNESSES: A major gap in the party’s organisation is lack of a charismatic leader like the late J Jayalalitha. Despite serving a full tenure as Tamil Nadu CM, Palaniswami lacks the charisma to galvanise the state’s voters when compared to Stalin. Even organisationally, the AIADMK is a former shadow of itself against the well-oiled structure of the DMK and rising rank and file of the BJP led by K Annamalai. The party’s ongoing legal dispute between Palaniswami and Paneerselvam further weakens the structure and organisational strength. Despite distancing itself from the BJP, there remains scepticism among voters over its future course of action as the party leans more towards the right side of the political spectrum.

OPPORTUNITIES: In Tamil Nadu Lok Sabha polls, issues like drugs, CAA, and regional concerns will take center stage. and with the AIADMK’s stance on these topics, the party aims to solidify minority support and hopes to breach traditional DMK strongholds. The party’s strategies focus on addressing these pressing issues to sway voters in its favor.

THREATS: The symbiotic alliance of the DMK-led ruling INDIA block and their campaign is a huge threat to the AIADMK along with internal factionalism and litigation that dents the party’s image. The presence of a strong PM candidate in BJP in Narendra Modi who has invoked the legacy of MGR and Jayalalitha against the DMK family rule may benefit the saffron party at the expense of the AIADMK.

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