However, it failed to realise its dream of outdoing its 1971 performance or the 200 plus seats promised by Stalin. DMK had won 184 seats in 1971, its all-time high in any Assembly poll.
Contrary to exit poll surveys, which predicted a maximum of over 195 seats for the DMK led secular alliance, the party has managed only around 160 seats, the lowest predicted by most exit poll surveys. The numbers, at the outset, might suggest that it was not a complete sweep for the DMK, but individual performances by big guns have demonstrated that the party had held sway among the voters. The victory of district secretary EV Velu in Tiruvannamalai (victory margin of 80,000 plus votes), Thangam Thennarasu (Tiruchuli – 61,000 plus votes), Udhayanidhi (Triplicane-Chepauk – over 60,000 votes) and deputy general secretary I Periasamy (Attur – over 55,000 votes) was a case in point.
DMK strongmen win big; AIADMK heavyweights bite dust
The defeat of AIADMK heavyweights like C Ve Shanmugham (Villupuram), KC Veeramani (Jolarpet), M C Sampath (Cuddalore), Rajenthra Bhalaji (Rajapalayam), K Pandiarajan (Avadi), D Jayakumar (Royapuram) and Benjamin (Maduravoyal) was proof of its strong performance. DMK should owe it to the south, delta and central Tamil Nadu for its comeback, for the party swept the polls there. In the same breath, the party had managed to retain control of the Chennai region, which it always calls its forte, winning 35 of the 37 seats in the city consisting of 16 seats of the Chennai Corporation, Chengalpattu, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur districts. The DMK should owe its below-par performance to Western Tamil Nadu, mainly Coimbatore and Salem districts, which continued to be the stronghold of the AIADMK with the sun rising in less than a couple of seats in both districts where caste polarisation of the AIADMK plus weak party dynamics for the DMK were said to have played a crucial part. Another performance that stood out for wrong reasons for the DMK was in DMK general secretary Duraimurugan’s Katpadi, where he had struggled against a relatively inexperienced Ramu of AIADMK, trailing for most of the day before gaining slender lead later in the day.
Stalin’s commitment to social justice principles and decision to retain Thol Thirumavalavan’s VCK, albeit pressure from within the party to divest them and get PMK on board proved dividends with the latter winning four of its six seats contesting on its own ‘pot’ symbol. Equally impressive was the victory of Vaiko’s MDMK in a like number contesting on DMK’s Rising Sun symbol. The two victories have dumped myths or rather illogical superstitions that parties with VCK and MDMK on board would not secure victory.