Proving exit polls wrong, Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK appeared set to retain power on Thursday, with its candidates on the winning track in 131 of the 232 constituencies.
In contrast to widespread expectations that it may seize power, the DMK-Congress alliance was leading only in 98 constituencies, far short of the half-way mark of 117.
The PMK led in five places and the DMDK alliance in two. Smaller parties were ahead in three seats. Polling was postponed in two constituencies by the Election Commission.
Most exit polls after voting ended on May 16 had predicted a DMK win. The imminent victory set off noisy celebrations outside AIADMK leader and Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa’s residence here as well as at party offices across the state. Holding Jayalalithaa’s portraits, supporters — many of them women — danced to music and burst firecrackers. Many distributed sweets and raised slogans hailing the chief minister.
In contrast, the mood was gloomy at the DMK headquarters although it was poised to win many more seats than it did in 2011.
The AIADMK had 150 members in the outgoing assembly. The DMK had 23 and the Congress five, indicating the alliance had major gains but not enough to unseat Jayalalithaa.
The bad news for the AIADMK came from Chennai, which was battered by flash floods in December and whose voters appeared to have overwhelmingly turned against the ruling party.
According to counting trends, AIADMK candidates were trailing behind the DMK in 12 of the 16 constituencies in the capital. Jayalalithaa, however, led in the city’s Radhakrishnan Nagar constituency.
The DMK had in its election campaign played up the havoc caused by the floods. The AIADMK fielded 227 candidates, leaving seven seats for its allies. But all of them contested with the AIADMK symbol two leaves.