Tamil Nadu Assembly elections 2021: Stalin should win, EPS can’t lose | Tamil Nadu Election News – Times of India

Because more than being CM, The DMK leader has to live up to expectations of anti-BJP forces
Despite acting in two unremarkable movies and a popular television serial between his first electoral defeat in 1984 and the first victory in 1989, Stalin has been stiff in front of the camera for the DMK’s campaign commercials this time. And then, on April 2, income tax officials searched the houses of his daughter and some DMK leaders.
Campaigning in Perambalur that evening, Stalin thundered at the BJP, which he said was behind the search: “Listen, Modi, I will not be scared. I’ve seen the Emergency. I am Kalaignar’s son.” Soon, the DMK social media campaigners cut a commercial using the raw footage of the speech. It was a hit.
For Kalaignar’s son, winning this election is not just about becoming the chief minister – a post that many believe has been overdue for the DMK president; it is about proving that he is not just the rightful political heir to the DMK throne, but also its worthy guardian, the next southern satrap of secularism if not a rallying point for the national opposition.
By winning the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Stalin proved that the prince is ready to be the king, now is the time for coronation.
For, missing this opportunity could not just deny him what he has been aspiring for, but also negate some of what he had achieved since he took over as the party working president in January 2017.
Ever since ill-health forced M Karunanidhi into virtual retirement soon after the 2016 assembly election, expectations were weighing heavier on Stalin’s shoulders. He silently defused his elder brother M K Alagiri’s another feeble attempt at rebellion.
He was quick to take control of the party, reorganising the district units to ensure there was no murmur against his leadership.
Once the house was in order, Stalin’s next test was the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, where he had to employ his skills at negotiating with allies, keeping the flock together and winning. He did all that and came up trumps, the alliance winning 38 of the 39 seats in TN and the only seat in the neighbouring Puducherry, keeping at bay the NDA that won a majority in the rest of the country to form the government.
All that would mean little unless Stalin, now 68, wins himself the chief minister’s post without needing the support of his allies.
There may be no immediate threat to Stalin’s leadership, but a defeat this time would test the resilience of the DMK as an organisation much as it would give credence to the new leadership of the AIADMK which had weathered many storms. After MGR, Jayalalithaa was the first leader to win a second term in 2016.
An AIADMK victory this time would demolish the DMK’s argument that Edappadi K Palaniswami was an accidental chief minister with no public support.
At the national level, too, this assembly poll is a graduation test for Stalin who Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and many opposition leaders see as a promising catalyst against the saffron surge. Whether in power or out of it, Karunanidhi had the stature of a statesman and a strategist. For Stalin, power is inevitable to grow and fill his father’s shoes.
Because retaining CM position is vital, but a big win will make EPS claim to Jayalalithaa legacy stronger
He may have been an accidental chief minister, but the AIADMK’s future and, to a large extent, its survival after the assembly election depends largely on Edappadi K Palaniswami.
EPS’s performance as chief minister has come in for praise with even his adversaries grudgingly admitting that it could strengthen his poll scorecard.
The behind-the-scenes tug-of-war with his deputy and AIADMK coordinator O Paneerselvam, however, has been a spoiler.
The dual leadership has made the fight tougher for EPS. After the first big hurdle of winning an election, there would be the bigger battle for the Jayalalithaa legacy.
And those jumping into the boxing ring include, besides EPS, OPS and V K Sasikala – perhaps through her nephew T T V Dhinakaran. EPS’s political relevance depends on his winning a sizable number of seats in the gounder-dominated western region, especially the 11 constituencies in Salem district, including his own Edappadi. With the 10.5% vanniyar quota tucked under his belt, victories in the northern vanniyar-dominant terrain are crucial for him.
The challenge for EPS got tougher by the recent statements of OPS to a television channel that there was neither a permanent chief minister nor dual leadership.
This was seemingly an OPS strategy to appease the mukkulathor community in the south though he had endorsed EPS’s CM candidature in October last year.
The thevar bastion in the south could prove an impenetrable fortress for EPS in the face of the complex caste dynamics. His key adversaries in the legacy battle, Sasikala and the AMMK led by Dhinakaran, are likely to chip away at the AIADMK’s once support base here, which may help the DMK.
An impressive performance in the election would mean EPS walking away with the Jayalalithaa crown; a fairly decent performance could up his stock within the AIADMK and keep him on his feet to deliver powerful punches on his adversaries.
A poor poll performance would mean not only missing a second shot at administration but losing his political stature within the AIADMK and giving Sasikala a reason to get back. A moderately good performance may not help EPS to shake off OPS.
What he couldn’t do when he was in power could prove more difficult when out of it, even if a decent number of his nominees make it to the next assembly.
A victory would also mean that the party’s dual leadership has passed the test of cohesion. A poor show would mean the fight for the legacy as well as the AIADMK leadership would continue. While EPS cleverly neutralised the Sasikala factor ahead of the election, the real battle for Jayalalithaa legacy would play out stronger after the election.
But how intense the legacy battle would hinge on Team EPS’s performance in the western and northern parts of Tamil Nadu.
Sasikala may have bowed out from the election scenario for now. But the Jayalalithaa associate who has been visiting temples and offering prayers may be just biding her time to make a grand re-entry. For now, the stage is all for EPS.

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