The Myth of the Third Front in Tamil Nadu

Published : Mar 24, 2021 09:29 am | By: M D Sridharan

The Myth of the Third Front in Tamil Nadu


The question of Third Front surfaces in Tamil Nadu every time when the state faces elections. But, it remains a distant dream in Tamil Nadu to dethrone the two Dravidian majors.

Everyone says that elections in Tamil Nadu are always different than the elections in other states of India. Yes, it is true for multiple reasons. Foremost reason is that unlike other states the state of Tamil Nadu politics has been dominated by two major Dravidian parties – Dravida Munnetra Khazhagam (DMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Khazhagam ( AIADMK)  - since the Sixties.  Secondly, the state has seen the evolution of film stars from being great entertainers in to mass political leaders who significantly changed the political scenario of the state. And finally, the state has witnessed coalition politics that keeps changing every five years at the time of elections, with the two Dravidian majors ruling the roast.

It has become an inevitable proposition for the other parties to join the bandwagon of either the DMK or the AIADMK.  Leave alone the smaller parties and caste oriented parties that keep making noises at the time of elections, even the nat6ional parties also have to toe the line of either the DMK or the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu. That is kind of dominance that the two dravidian behemoths enjoy in Tamil Nadu for well over five decades. So, every time the state faces elections, the coalition politics comes alive and accordingly various permutations and combinations are being discussed and finally worked out to woo the voters.

But, despite their dominance in the state having massive support base and enjoy large vote shares, both DMK and AIADMK have always relied on alliances to win the elections. While in 2016, AIADMK under Jayalalithaa brazenly took the might of DMK and several others by contesting in all 234 seats alone and also registered a thumping victory, the DMK has never fought the battle alone.

While for the smaller parties are bound by the need to be recognised in the Assembly for which they need to have a sizable vote share in their kitty, coalitions politics makes it a easier route to achieve their goals,  for the “big brothers’ it has just become a winning formula to attract different castes and religion  across the state. Besides, despite the fact that the big brothers have never given any assurance that could be part of the government after a victory, small parties make a beeline with the two majors to make an impact in the elections.

There have been instances in the past when smaller parties have benefitted from being part of the alliance with the major party. Also statistics have proved that the smaller parties can eat in to the vote share of the majors.  In 2011, Tamil actor Vijayakanth  floated Desiya Murpokku Dravida Khazhagam  (DMDK)  and  contested 41 seats in alliance with AIADMK and won 29 seats. Interestingly DMDK won more seats than the principal opposition party DMK and Vijayakanth was elected as the Leader of the Opposition.

In 2016,  Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK ) contested independently and fieled its candidates in all 234 constituencies. Though PMK could not win a single seat,  it garnered 5.36 per cent of the vote share. In the 2016 elections, in 83 constituencies, the difference between the two major parties - DMK and AIADMK-  was lesser than the votes that PMK obtained which clearly indicated that the vote transfer to the alliance is reasonably good and such strategy swing the results.

The myth of the third front in Tamil Nadu

Historically, the so called third front has never become a force to reckon with and has only technically remained as the ‘next best alternative’ from time to time. Also, most of the third party alliances have turned out to be instant alliances.  In Tamil Nadu most of the times, the idea of third front emerges only to take on the two dravidian parties without any ideological unity. As they get united only for the election purpose, there always exists simmering views and dissent voices emerge within the third front even before elections. 

Since there is no sustainable agenda, the formation of third front itself keep changing with every election. In 2016, six smaller parties under DMDK came together and formed  Makkal Nala Kootani (MNK) with great fanfare and claimed to put an end to dravidian rule. But  came a cropper  as it could not win a single seat.  Soon after the 2016 election  MNK automatically collapsed. Today, in 2021 the  parties of MNK got themselves regrouped under the Dravidian majors once again.

Significantly the third fronts have always lacked strong foundation to tide over the dravidian majors. Today, actor Kamal Haasan has attempted to repeat what Vijayakanth did in 2016. Kamal Hassan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) is all set to lead the third front with the Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi (IJK) and the All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi (AISMK) parties.  On the other side, DMDK with its dwindling vote share has joined hands with  AIADMk’s rebel  leader TTV Dinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Khazhagam (AMMK).

After the return of V K Sasikala, everyone thought that she will use AMMK to upset AIADMK and with her backing AMMK will make an impact in the elections. But the unexpected decision of Sasikala to withdraw temporarily from active politics has dealt a huge blow to TTV Dinakaran’s aspirations. While Seeman has been making some inroads through his   Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK). Even in 2016also NTK also contested in all the 234 seats on its own 2016 but did not win even a single seat.

While the main opposition DMK is virtually hoping that they will benefit from the anti incumbency votes which the third front is likely to cut in to  AIADMK’s vote shares. But, the incumbent Chief Minister Edapaadi Palanisamy, has managed to cross over all the hurdles, both within the  party and outside of it, and has done fair job in his four year tenure. And the  fact remains that the people of Tamil Nadu has taken notice of hios governance as by and large there is no significant anti- AIADMK K wave across the state.

While some analysts are of the opinion that Kamal Haasan or Seeman’s parties could play spoilsport, they are not likely make any significant impact in the coming polls. Besides, both in terms of infrastructure the third front parties cannot match both DMK and AIADMK as they are well spread and so strong, especially in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu. The third front parties may win in some constituencies, but a massive victory against the dravidian major parties will still be a distant dream in Tamil Nadu.