After upping their glam quotient with a host of actors such as Gautami, Namitha, Lakshmi, Revathi and Gayathri Raghuram, the BJP also enlisted the services of ex-IPS officer, Annamalai Kuppuswamy.

 

Chennai: Actor superstar Rajinikanth, who was expected to launch his political party this year, may have predicted a “miracle” in the 2021 Tamil Nadu elections, but he surely would not have expected the changes taking place on the political front in the state at present. On 12 October, Indian National Congress spokesperson Khushbu Sundar resigned from the party and hours later joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, which she had been highly critical of. Sundar is the latest addition to the BJP in Tamil Nadu where the party has been making significant changes ahead of the 2021 elections. After upping their glam quotient with a host of actors such as Gautami, Namitha, Lakshmi, Revathi and Gayathri Raghuram, the party also enlisted the services of ex-IPS officer, Annamalai Kuppuswamy, who had been on superstar Rajinikanth’s radar for his party.

The Tamil Nadu (TN) elections next year are set to be one of the biggest battles for political parties in the state, given the absence of the two tall leaders—Amma Jayalalithaa and Kalaignar Karunanidhi. Though the fight is seen as primarily between the AIAMDK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), issues have been cropping up internally in these parties. The tug-of-war for the Chief Minister’s chair between TN CM E. Palaniswami (EPS) and his deputy, O. Panneerselvam (OPS) was resolved successfully, but Sasikala Natarajan’s release from prison in early 2021 could cause changes in their route to win the elections. Interestingly, despite EPS being her chosen candidate to take over the reins as CM, the ruling party has not supported her. Recently, the I-T department attached 65 properties reportedly belonging to her and her associates including the Kodanad Estate and her house under construction opposite Jayalalithaa’s in Poes Garden.

Meanwhile, Chinnamma’s (Sasikala’s) nephew T.T.V. Dhinakaran floated the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) in 2018 and while Sasikala, from the Thevar community, cannot stand for elections herself, she is expected to wield influence and be a game-changer on her release. Chinnamma was the closest confidante to Jayalalithaa and has many loyalists within the AIADMK. She was seen as a major force behind the scenes in the AIADMK during Jayalalithaa’s time and this gives her an advantage especially where the party leaders and cadres are concerned. Thus, there’s a perception that anyone she backs could garner sympathy votes with the loss of Amma and the fact that she served time for her wrongs.

Political analysts state that the BJP’s strategy to keep Sasikala out of politics has worked so far. The question now is whether, or not, she will be welcomed back into the AIADMK fold and whether, or not, she, along with her nephew Dhinakaran, will try to take control of Amma’s party once again. Currently, EPS has proven he has the backing of all his partymen and having been the CM over the last few years, he has strengthened his position with the people as well. Even with Sasikala back in the AIADMK fold, EPS will still remain the CM candidate, say political observers, adding that OPS may have the most to lose. There is also a perception that the BJP will back Sasikala in taking control of the AIADMK once again or may work out a compromise with her since the current government survived the term thanks to the BJP’s backing. It works to the BJP’s advantage to have Sasikala on their side and if this whole scenario does pan out, it could spell trouble for the DMK.

Today, language, education and identity politics have come into play in Tamil Nadu and the DMK has been using these issues heavily in social media campaigns. The 2021 election is an important one for M.K. Stalin and his party and it’s crucial that they form the right alliances. With DMK having roped in strategist Prashant Kishor (which many saw as the party being nervous about its chances), the party has also been actively working at the grassroots, trying to collate information on aspects like welfare measures and woo voters. But the appointment of Stalin’s son, Udhayanidhi, as the DMK’s youth wing secretary, caused internal strife and strategists felt this was not the right time to push him into the political limelight as it could affect the party’s chances in next year’s elections.

In 2020, one of the most anticipated announcements was supposed to be Rajinikanth’s official plunge into politics, but it is yet to happen thanks to the Covid pandemic. There was talk of Rajinikanth joining hands with actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan and his Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), but with the superstar taking no action, it appears that Kamal Haasan may be ready to look elsewhere. In 2018, Kamal Haasan had stated he would join hands with Congress if they broke their alliance with the DMK. Now, however, there are whispers that MNM is looking towards the DMK for a possible alliance for 2021.

The BJP is ready to fight the Dravidian ideology over the next few months but this is not going to be an easy task. With deep-rooted caste-based politics and possible unexpected changes and alliances come January 2021, the elections in 2021 are going to be interesting for Tamil Nadu.