The unfolding of multi-cornered contests for the 39 Lok Sabha constituencies in Tamil Nadu and the lone seat in neighbouring Puducherry, both of which go to the polls on April 24, as opposed to well-marked two or three-way fights in earlier elections, is an indication of a likely churn in the State’s politics. With these 40 seats that may make a crucial difference in the government-formation exercise in New Delhi, the uncertainty of outcomes that usually goes with such quadrangular or pentangular fights is bound to put Tamil Nadu on top of the pollsters’ radar screens in the coming days. As things stand today, the Jayalalithaa-led All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is in maximalist mode, staking claim for all the 40 seats, leading an independent front, after it dramatically bid ‘goodbye’ to the main Left parties — the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist). When the leaders of the CPI and the CPI(M), A.B. Bardhan and Prakash Karat, set much store by an alliance with the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu as part of a larger nationwide strategy to forge an ‘alternative’ to both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party to fight both corruption and communalism, the sudden collapse in seat-sharing talks came as a blow to the ‘third front’ idea. But the two veterans were quick to discount its fallout, declaring that the two Communist parties would jointly contest the election on a broad Left platform, even while squarely blaming the AIADMK for its ‘unilateral’ decision that gave rise to another formation.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam which quit the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance last year, made little headway in reworking power equations with a younger, Rahul Gandhi-driven Congress, more so after the DMK’s recent general council meeting which decided against any alliance with either the Congress or the BJP. The Congress at the Central level made little effort to rebuild ties with its former ally, leaving State Congress leaders demoralised. The DMK chief, M. Karunanidhi, sewed up a separate alliance with smaller parties including two Dalit parties. The DMK’s own list of 35 candidates, which featured the names of two controversial former Ministers, A. Raja and Dayanidhi Maran, was torn into by the patriarch’s elder son, M.K. Alagiri. The Congress enters the fray without any allies. The Aam Aadmi Party has not made any visible ripples in this overcrowded political space. The BJP for the first time is set to lead another big front, with the Vijayakant-led DMDK, the PMK and the MDMK. The State seems to be in for a fascinating five-cornered contest.

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