Election Campaign Recap - I : Three Strategies That Worked

The election campaign has officially ended; People are ready to vote. Now it is a good time to recap the undercurrents of this election campaign.

Usually, in a campaign, the bulk of the agenda is set by the people. As we go through the campaign, the media feels the pulse of the people and comes up with the issues that the people care for (through polls like "what is the most important thing in this election" etc). Candidates quickly latch on to this agenda and either ride the wave or shape public opinion if they are able to convince otherwise.

This election is a strange one, in the sense that most of the agenda was set by the politicians themselves. Issues that a common man might be interested in were barely discussed, and the main issues were the ones that the parties tried to project. I guess the main reason for this is the lack of a powerful independent/unbiased media. The media in this election was polarized more than ever, and this kind of ensured that the people's concerns were not given the prominence that they should have been given.

In this light, the strategies of each political party becomes extremely important. I think there were three main strategies that completely shaped up this election. Which of these will be the coup de grâce, I am not sure.

1. The DMK manifesto: The ADMK were going to town with the emphasis on the performance of their government. In reality, what did they have to show to the voters that would be instant positives? Not the way in which it dealt with the government workers (which I totally support and was sad to see it being painted in a negative light now). Not the ruthless manner in which people like Veerappan were "encountered" or Jayendrar was arrested. The main things that Jayalalitha could campaign on were her giveaways. Free bicycle. 2000 Rupees for those hit by the rains. Tsunami relief money.

In a powerful move, Karunanidhi countered it by promising more freebies. Free Color TV. Rice at Rs 2 a kg. 2 acres arid land to farmers (though the Sun TV ads wrongly (and knowingly) claimed "2 acres farm land").

The impact of these freebies were not obvious at first. VaiKo had a field day convincing people that these schemes would never work. Looked like people didn't believe that these could be done... till Jayalalitha followed suit.

By promising free 10 kg rice, Jayalalitha implicitly accepted that the DMK manifesto was a big hit and needed to be neutralized. I think it was a losing move politically and gave a lot of credibility to the DMK promises.

2. Shift of the evil, rich family tag: Think of what happened during the last time Jayalalitha faced an election when in power. The talk was on the rampant corruption in her government and the money embezzled by Sasikala and her family. Images of the vaLarppu magan's marriage didn't help. Sasikala, Bhaskaran, Sudhakaran, Dinakaran and all other karans in her family were painted as the people who swiped hundreds of crores of rupees. The vote in that election was also a vote against this powerful family.

Fast forward to this election. I don't think Sasikala and her cronies have stopped doing what they did before. I don't think her family has not earned a decent sum during the last five years. Yet, the tag of the evil, rich family went surprisingly to the other side, the one that was not in power in the state! Kalaignar's family, especially his Sun TV nephews, were branded as the money grabbers. The ill-timed Sun TV IPO didn't help. News that Dayanithi Maaran threatened the Tatas didn't help. Defectors like Vaiko, Sarathkumar and others bemoaned that DMK was catering to the interest of Kalaignar's family alone.

Whether the decision to target the Maaran brothers and their wealth/monopoly was Vaiko's or Jayalalitha's, we won't know, but it was a highly successful strategy. Instead of talking about the ruling party's corruption and embezzlement (who remembers any accusation other than the one on MIDAS?), DMK was forced to respond and keep up with the questions asked. Whatever be the outcome of the election, I think that DMK is stuck with the Sun Network tag, that it is trying to create a monopoly in the media, with a clear help from its people in the power.

3. The first two were straightforward, but the third strategy, whose importance I think we would see more after the election, is pretty subtle.

It can be summed up by this telling image in Dinakaran today. It is the last day of election campaign. Karunanidhi addresses a meeting with V.P.Singh. The photo that is there in the link is the one in the Dinakaran front page, covering the final moment of the campaign. Now, you see V.P.Singh, Karunanidhi and Dayanithi Maaran. Where is Stalin?

The third strategy that has influenced this election is the prominence given to Dayanithi Maaran and the lack of prominence given to Stalin. Dayanithi Maaran was the DMK's hero of this campaign. Issues were centered around him. DMK's main "achievements" at the centre were symbolized by his photos with Bill Gates, his BSNL One Rupee a call programme, and his involvement in pretty much everything. He was there at each and every occasion. Sun TV gave more coverage to him than Stalin. Even Dinakaran wrote that the manifesto was shaped up mainly by Dayanithi Maaran and Kalaignar.

Does anyone remember a single intelligent thing said by Stalin throughout this campaign? Vijaykanth jumped into politics yesterday and still, more people wanted him to be the next chief minister than Stalin.

I think this was a very deliberate decision by Kalaignar.

This can be interpreted in two ways: Either Kalaignar is underplaying Stalin, so that the voting public don't realize that they are actually going to vote for Stalin (he is the chief minister in waiting) and given his popularity, that will be a huge negative. Or, Karunanidhi has decided that Stalin is not his heir after all, and is grooming Dayanithi Maaran to usurp the leadership after his time.

Either way, what happened was that whenever the question of leadership after Karunanidhi came up, the question was not answered, or was evaded. So, is Stalin not the next head? Is Dayanithi Maaran going to play a more active role in the state politics?

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13 comments: to “ Election Campaign Recap - I : Three Strategies That Worked

  • Kumar


    Good analysis.

  • Anonymous


    Though the local media published the Maran VS TATA story (fact), it never got the attention in National Media ( not in the main express, not in NDTV,), such was the reach of Maran's money power. Inspite of that, people in TN ,did discuss and arrived at their own conlusions, ( i.e., Maran /MK swindled lot of money), coming back to analysis, there was a campign that Vai KO didn't bring votes nor organisational support, but the fact is nobody was a match for VaiKO, Iyer was not to be seen at all, Subramanya Swmany too brought few issues ( World bank chief's letter on Anbumani..and CBI radi for Maran)..I think the crowd etc for DMK is because of sheer money which flowed, the votes will tell you a different story. Till now its a tough fight.


  • Anonymous




  • Anonymous


    > local media published the Maran >VS TATA story (fact), it never >got the attention in National >Media ( not in the main express, >not in NDTV,)

    which reveals that the alleagation is the handiwork of some local media under the influence of J!!!

  • Anonymous


    (who remembers any accusation other than the one on MIDAS?),

    -so the MIDAS accusation seemes to be little bothered the author?

  • Anonymous


    It is all over folks!!! Octogenarian Muthuvel Karunanidhi and its DPA alliance will be elected on May 8/11. While reliable early polls predicted a close contest, the reliable Recent opinion and exit polls are pointing to a landslide victory for DPA alliance. More importantly, MK is drawing crowds more than that of the last Lok sabha elections where their alliance bagged all the 40 seats. It is even bigger than 1967 crowds when Annadurai and its DMK came to power. MK is drawing more crowds in Ramnad district for the first time since MGR demise which itself is a great surprise. This evening State CBI is predicting defeat for JJ in Andipatti. What is the reason for this sea change? Is it a temporary election phenomenon? Are the old DMK followers coming back home to say farewell to Octogenarian MK by electing him and his DMK one more time? Are they come to see next generation DMK leader Dayanidhi Maran? Are they attracted by the leftist DMK election manifesto? Whatever may be the reason here is the rating of the politicians in Tamilnadu based on the performance so far:
    1. Bill Clinton of Tamilnadu: Dayanidihi Maran (DM) – He is connecting with the old and the young, rich and the poor. He is the most sought person within DMK party for speaking in public meetings. He was invited not because he is the grandson of MK, but he comes across as a sincere politician, interacts with ordinary folks, and displays a demeanor of that of a educated young man capable of accomplishing things. He is not a old style great Tamil orator but he communicates well and connects with the public. He will be the next CM of TN 6 months to a year from now. He will contest in Chepak constituency replacing his grandpa. I really don’t know whether DM has really threatened the Tatas or not. (hey, Tom Delay - the Hammer was doing it for years in Washington exactly this - nobody called it that it is a crime). Threatening for a piece of his business is not a crime – it is a business tactic. Even if it is true, to me, it is a positive point because he is not afraid of the giants. Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis of the world (and by the way they are not Gods) have became rich and monopolized various industries in the last 50 years (with the help from congress and BJP govts) exactly doing what DM is accused of. DM’s performance in the Centre (IT sector) for public good and inviting Bill Gates to Intel Chief to TN is a laudable act. If he does the same thing in TN as CM that would make TN a heaven for new ‘low’ and ‘high’ wage employment. I haven’t seen a single politician like him in any major parties in TN for his polished public relation and lobbying skills. (Even P Chidambaram lacks these skills.) This is a great asset for TN. Don’t underestimate it. Voters see him (DM) as their next CM.
    2. Mario Cuomo of Tamilnadu: MK Stalin – Had DMK won the election in 2001 he would have become CM. But not now.
    3. Robert Rubin of Tamilnadu: P Chidambaram – Capitalist minded but forced to defend MK’s leftist DMK manifesto.
    4. Howard Dean of Tamilnadu: Vijaya T Rajendar – A colorful speaker
    5. John Kerry of Tamilnadu: Jayalalitha - Finally, she displayed her weakness in political skills. You can’t endorse (indirectly) your opponent’s poll manifesto. You can’t be against it (Rs 2/kg rice) before you are for it (10kg free rice). This is the turning point for this election. Voters didn’t care about whether MK is going to give Rs. 2/kg of rice or not. They used this criteria to evaluate which politician is sincere or not. This major goof combined with the absence of friends surrounding JJ made her look insincere. Moreover, folks - in politics you need friends.
    4. Sour grapes: Maran brothers and their family SunTV business have become an issue in this election. SunTV was started by Kalanidhi Maran when the DMK was in Opposition in both in the state and in the centre (1990-92). He took risk and succeeded in his business. As a smart businessman, he expanded his business in the entire south India with a variety of 14 channels in different languages and monopolized the business. The entire south India Cinema industry stalwarts like AVM who had a large library of films slept on the wheel while Maran was succeeding with SunTV. They or any one in the movie industry could have started this business. They didn’t. That is why now after looking at Maran’s success, from the TN movie producers to fellow DMK and other politicians (VaiKo, Sarathkumar, Vishu etc); they were all envy of him. Give him credit when it is due. Kalanidhi Maran succeeded on his own to become a giant in this satellite TV business. So far there is no SPECIFIC complaint that he used illegal political influence to start or expand his business. Becoming a successful business man is an achievement not a crime.
    5. VaiKo – a colossal failure: I had high regard for the DMK MPs of the 1962-67 era. Annadurai, Murasoli Maran, Vaiko, Nanjil Manoharan, Era Chezhian, Dhandapani etc were all educated MABL lawyers and they were the only ones who spoke in the Lok sabha about “State-Autonomy” issues in those days. Compared to the then ruling congress party MPs, these guys were dedicated young guys who had enormous knowledge in the Center-State issues area. This VaiKo could have become a central minister along with Murasoli Maran under Vajpayee. He chose not to join the ministry even when his MDMK MPs became ministers. Had he joined and performed, he could have made a name for himself. But, he didn’t. He can’t blame MK for this. He had a direct contact with Vajpayee. Later, he could have become a Central minister again under Manmohan Singh. First he refused. Then when he wanted to become a minister, his quota was taken by DMK according to him. Why he didn’t utilize the opportunity when it was first given. He can only blame himself and he can’t blame MK for this again. Now he is envy of Dayanidhi Maran because he made a name for himself as a central minister. He is indecisive and consistently doesn’t make right political decisions (probably because of L Ganesan). That way he is a colossal failure.

    Finally about MK: In spite of all the bad verbiage thrown against him over the years, a considerable percentage of voters who once supported him is coming back to him because of his sincerity. At this age of 83, voters don’t think that he is doing it for personal gain or for his family business. The voters think that he is sincere and that is why he released a extreme leftist poll manifesto. These voters also think that he might deliver the promises either through his grandson or son.
    Here is the prediction. DPA: 195 others: 39


    Elections for loksabha is around the corner. Political situation will change after June.

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