Chennai: On 8 February, V.K. Sasikala, former general secretary of AIADMK and aide to the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J. Jayalalithaa, undertook a 23-hour journey from Bengaluru to Chennai. Thousands of party workers from AIADMK and AMMK thronged the road to greet the long term confidante and friend of Amma during the journey, reinforcing the view that her arrival would definitely shake up Tamil Nadu’s political situation and the impending elections. While people and politicians were waiting to watch what her next move would be, on 3 March, Sasikala announced that she was “staying away” from politics and that the supporters of Amma should unite to defeat the common enemy, the DMK in the Assembly elections.

With Sasikala taking a backseat, the political scenario, once again, has changed ahead of the Tamil Nadu elections scheduled to be held on 6 April. The two major parties battling it out in Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK and the DMK, are now under tremendous pressure given that their two tall leaders, Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, are no longer around. Cut to the DMK and its alliance partners—the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), has been allotted six seats

in the Assembly elections, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) three seats, the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK) two seats and the Communist Party of India six seats. CPM is unhappy with the number of seats offered to them by the DMK as is the Congress and talks are still on. The Congress’ demand for 30 seats has been turned down, with DMK willing to give only 20.

According to political analyst Sumanth Raman, “The Congress is unlikely to accept anything below 25 seats in Tamil Nadu. If the DMK doesn’t compromise with the Congress and if this alliance breaks, then the Dravidian party will lose the election in the state.” The DMK, however, seems to be of the firm belief that they can indeed win the election without the support of the Congress if push comes to shove.

Sathiyamoorthy, a political analyst, said: “Chances are that Congress may reach a solution with the DMK because in any other alliance, their chance of winning seats is limited. Again, there may be infighting within the Congress as to who gets which seat; the choice of constituencies will again be an issue between the DMK and Congress. But this problem of who gets which constituency will be an issue for both DMK and AIADMK with their respective alliance partners.”

Meanwhile, it is Sasikala’s nephew T.T.V. Dhinakaran—whose political party is Amma Makkal Munnettra Kazagam (AMMK)—who seems to be in a quandary as they are yet to announce their alliance partners. With Sasikala clearly aligning with the AIADMK and Dhinakaran refusing to join hands with the AIADMK, it is now a question of how many seats AMMK will play a spoilsport in. “AMMK got 5.5% votes in the last Parliament elections. If they retain that percentage or increase it this time (30 Assembly constituencies), then that can decide the fate of the elections. Else if the AIADMK loses, then Sasikala and TTV become more relevant,” said Sathiyamoorthy. But there are those who feel that Chief Minister Eddapadi K. Palaniswami (EPS), being the shrewd politician that he is, could invite senior AMMK leaders to come to the AIADMK fold with the offer of five or six seats and this could mean the end of AMMK.

Meanwhile, Kamal Haasan is busy wooing urban middle class voters with his Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) and analysts believe MNM could look at about 4-5% vote share.

As to whether it will be AIADMK’s EPS or DMK’s M.K. Stalin who will be crowned Chief Minister, no one is placing their bets at this point, stating that it is a close fight between the two Dravidian parties. The AIADMK has allotted 20 seats for the BJP along with the Kanyakumari Lok Sabha seat, while Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) has been allotted 23 seats. EPS has also strengthened his position on the ground level tremendously by wooing various caste communities, like the Nadars and the Vanniyars, through various bills and proposals. “EPS has played his cards brilliantly and has got his caste arithmetic right,” said Sumanth Raman.

With parties still talking seat sharing and allocation of constituencies, Tamil Nadu elections 2021 are set to be one of the most interesting battles for power in recent years in India’s political history.