In Tamil Nadu, an accidental Chief Minister is fighting hard to retain the crown he has been wearing for four years now, while Opposition leader MK Stalin cannot wait to win the most coveted Chief Minister’s chair. On April 6, Tamil Nadu will see a one-phase election to 234 assembly constituencies and a by-poll in the Kanya Kumari Lok Sabha seat.
In 2016, MK Stalin had made big preparations, touring the state and changing his attire to T-shirt and trousers from the traditional white veshti-chattai to appeal to youth audience. With this, and a professional team that worked on his image makeover, he almost made it, falling short only by a margin of less than two per cent.
The AIADMK got 136 seats with 40.8 per cent vote share and the DMK got 98 seats with 39.1 per cent vote share. The difference was only 1.7 per cent.
Less than seven months later, then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa died.
After a power struggle in the AIADMK, Edappadi Palaniswami became the Chief Minister in February 2017.
Despite a lot of scepticism about his abilities to retain power, he showed a lot of resilience and political cunning, staying in power for the rest of the five-year term.
In August 2018, DMK founder-leader Muthuvel Karunanidhi also died.
With no larger-than-life leaders in the Tamil political scene, there are questions whether national parties will now dominate in the state.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, of the 39 parliamentary constituencies, the DMK got 38 seats and the AIADMK won the lone MP seat.
One big reason for this was the negative perception about the AIADMK’s relationship with the BJP.
The second — a party like the AMMK, whose leader TTV Dhinakaran singlehandedly defeated both the AIADMK and the DMK in the RK Nagar bypoll. The latter even lost its deposit. The AMMK cut into the AIADMK vote base, contributing to its defeat in multiple seats.
Questions began to be asked once again whether it was a matter of time before the AIADMK government under EPS would be toppled or defeated.
The current assembly election is a five-cornered contest. Other than the two Dravidian parties, AIADMK and DMK, which do not have their iconic leaders Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi any longer, there is TTV Dhinakaran’s AMMK, Kamal Haasan’s MNM and Seeman’s Naam Tamizhar Katchi.
The fight, though, is largely between the two fronts. Political analysts have said the others may end up playing the role of vote-cutters and would influence the result in many seats.
The AIADMK plus NDA is contesting with AIADMK in 179 seats, BJP in 20, PMK in 23 and the TMC in 6.
When the AIADMK, minutes before the election notification, passed the Bill giving 10.5 per cent internal quota to Vanniyars, it was thought to be a master move by the Chief Minister E Palaniswami to consolidate the support in north and west Tamil Nadu. Pattali Makkal Katchi with the father-son Ramadoss duo came into the alliance.
On the other side, the Secular Progressive Alliance is fighting with the DMK contesting 173 seats, Congress 25, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi six, the CPI and the CPM in six each, Vaiko’s MDMK in six and the rest to other smaller players.
TTV Dhinakaran’s AMMK is contesting 161 seats. It is in alliance with actor-politician Vijayakanth’s MDMK, which is contesting 60 seats, the SDPI in six and AIMIM in three seats.
The MDMK’s exit from the NDA was AIADMK’s loss and AMMK’s gain, at a time when Vijayakanth is not an active politician because of health reasons and his wife Premalatha literally runs the party.
Then there is Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam that is fighting 154 seats with the battery torch symbol. They partner with the Indiya Jananayaga Katchi in 40 seats and the party of another star couple — Sarath Kumar and Radhika — the All-India Samuthuva Makkal Katchi in 33 seats.
Then there is the Naam Thamizhar Katchi of Seeman, who are contesting all 234 seats and are the only party to have 50 per cent female candidates in a state where there are more women than men voters.