New Delhi: In the first assembly elections held since the demise of former chief minister and AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa, the fight in Tamil Nadu this time is between the ruling alliance of AIADMK-BJP-PMK and the opposition DMK-Congress coalition.
Apart from the two main alliances, there were three other major political parties that contested these polls, with two of them fighting as an alliance.
In 2018, a year before the Lok Sabha polls, actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan floated the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), which is hoping to make major inroads riding on his popularity among the cinema-going population, in these assembly elections. Then there is also an alliance between T.T.V. Dhinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) and Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
The voting for the 234 assembly seats on April 6 witnessed a 72.81% turnout which was exactly 2 percentage points less than the 74.81% seen during the 2016 elections. A total of 457,76,311 votes were polled in the elections with more women (231,71,736) turning out to vote than men (226,03,156). As many as 1,419 third gender votes were also recorded.
Edappadi K. Palaniswami (AIADMK)
Tamil Nadu chief minister and joint coordinator of AIADMK Edappadi K. Palaniswami entered the world of politics as a party volunteer in 1974. He became chief minister following the death of J. Jayalalithaa and after O. Panneerselvam, who used to perform the role of acting chief minister whenever she was unable to attend work and who became CM on her death, resigned from the post in 2017.
A four-time MLA, Palaniswami is seeking re-election from the Edappadi constituency in Salem district. The seat is a stronghold of the AIADMK but this time DMK’s candidate is 37-year-old T. Sampath Kumar, who is a local, and, as per his party, can pull off an upset.
However, Palaniswami, who believes that the AIADMK will be able to ensure ‘Amma aatchi’ or Amma’s rule and form a government in the state for the third straight term, remains a strong contender. In the last election, he had polled 85.5% of the votes in the Edappadi constituency and he would be hoping for a repeat performance this time.
Palaniswami is also the joint coordinator of AIADMK. He had earlier also won the Tiruchengodu seat in the same area in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections.
O. Panneerselvam (AIADMK)
Tamil Nadu deputy chief minister and joint coordinator of AIADMK, O. Panneerselvam used to be a close aide of Jayalalithaa and would play the role of the acting CM whenever she was unable to head the government. He was also administered the oath of chief minister following her demise. However, in 2017, Panneerselvam demitted office, paving the way for Palaniswami to become chief minister.
This time, Pannneerselvam, who also heads the AIADMK along with Palaniswami, contested the Bodinayakannur seat in the Theni district. Popularly known as OPS, Panneerselvam has continuously represented this seat since 2001. This time he is pitted opposite DMK’s Thanga Tamilselvan, who too used to be a confidante of Jayalalithaa but who never got along well with Panneerselvam. This is what has made the contest interesting, as Tamilselvan would be appealing to both his own loyalists in AIADMK as well as the traditional supporters of DMK-Congress.
M.K. Stalin (DMK)
DMK president M.K. Stalin, who took over the reins of the party following the demise of his father and founder of the party and former chief minister M. Karunanidhi, is a serious contender for the post of the chief minister this time. He is contesting once again from Kolathur, a seat he has represented since 2011.
While under Karunanidhi, Stalin served as deputy chief minister in the state, he was the leader of the opposition during the AIADMK-BJP alliance rule. This time he has allied with Congress in the hope of dislodging the AIADMK-BJP alliance and forming the government.
Stalin had won his first election from Thousand Lights constituency in Chennai in 1989 and he later became mayor of Chennai. Aadhi Rajaram of AIADMK, whom Stalin had defeated from Thousand Lights in 2001, is this time taking him on from Kolathur.
Udhayanidhi Stalin (DMK)
Son of M.K. Stalin and actor-producer Udhayanidhi Stalin made his electoral debut in these elections, contesting the Chepauk-Tiruvallikeni seat, which has been a traditional bastion of the DMK.
The younger Stalin is hopeful of winning by a “huge margin” from the seat. A reason for his confidence is that this seat was won thrice by his grandfather and DMK founder M. Karunanidhi between 1996 and 2011.
Incidentally, Stalin’s main fight for the seat will be with A.V.A. Kassali of the Pattali Makkal Katchi, a party founded by S. Ramadoss in 1989 as a political outfit for the Vanniyars (OBC). The PMK is also an ally of AIADMK-BJP in these elections.
The constituency which is in the heart of Chennai was represented by Udhayanidhi’s grandfather and late DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi thrice from 1996 to 2011. Thereafter Karunanidhi had shifted to Tiruvarur in the Cauvery Delta region.
The constituency which was known as Chepauk till 2011, was renamed Chepauk-Thiruvallikeni in 2011 after delimitation.
TTV Dhinakaran (AMMK)
Another key player in Tamil Nadu politics this time is TTV Dhinakaran, nephew of Jayalalithaa’s former aide V.K. Sasikala, and founder of Amma Makkal Munettra Kazhagam (AMMK).
An MLA from RR Nagar in Chennai, a seat which was earlier represented by Jayalalithaa, Dhinakaran had floated AMMK after he and Sasikala were ousted from the AIADMK following the latter’s conviction in a corruption case.
While Sasikala announced her decision to “stay away from politics” ahead of the 2021 polls, Dhinakaran had won the R.K. Nagar assembly seat in 2017 and sprung a major surprise. But this time, he is not trying to retain the seat and has moved to Kovilpatti, where he is pitted opposite AIADMK strongman and cabinet minister K. Raju as also K. Srinivasan of the DMK.
Kamal Haasan (MNM)
Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan had floated Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) in 2018, a year before the Lok Sabha elections. In the general elections, his party contested 37 seats and got 3.72% of all votes polled. This time MNM has fielded candidates for 154 seats and left 40 seats each to its allies – All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi and Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi.
Haasan himself contested the Coimbatore South seat, where he is taking on Mayura S. Jayakumar of the Congress and Vanathi Srinivasan of the BJP. Srinivasan is also the BJP women’s wing’s national president. Though Coimbatore South was considered a traditional stronghold of AIADMK, this time the party has left the seat for BJP, which has fielded a local face and its women’s wing national president from it.
Haasan is expecting a maiden entry into the assembly from the constituency, which has a significant number of Muslim, Christian, north Indian, Gounder, Naicker, Chettiar and Mukulathor voters.
L. Murugan (BJP)
While BJP is yet to make significant inroads into Tamil Nadu on its own, the president of its state unit, L. Murugan, is a prominent face in these state assembly elections.
At a time when BJP and AIADMK are hoping for a repeat of previous outcomes, it is being said that Murugan would be a strong contender for the post of deputy chief minister should the alliance win. He is contesting from Dharapuram in the Tiruppur district.
Though Murugan hails from Paramathi Velur in Namakkal district he chose to contest from the reserved seat, which has a significant population of Arunathiyars, Pallars, Kuravars and other scheduled communities.
Though the sitting MLA Kalaimuthu VS is from the Congress, this time the alliance has fielded Kayalvizhi Selvaraj of DMK against Murugan.