Three is a crowd: On Tamil Nadu political scene and the general election 2024  

The DMK alliance has gained strength, but the opposition is split in T.N.

March 22, 2024 12:10 am | Updated 10:20 am IST

Unlike in 2019, Tamil Nadu, in 2024, seems poised for a three-cornered contest, with the ruling DMK-led front remaining cohesive, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) roping in one more party, i.e., the PMK, and the AIADMK being left with smaller organisations. The DMK leadership has retained all its allies, accommodating them in the best possible way. Of 39 seats in the State, the DMK will be trying its luck in 22 constituencies, after taking into account one seat allotted to the Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi and contesting under the DMK’s ‘rising sun’ symbol. As in the past, the Congress has 10 seats, including Puducherry, and the two Left parties two each. The MNM, headed by veteran actor Kamal Haasan, is a recent addition to the DMK’s coalition — the party could not be allotted even a single constituency this time but has been assured a Rajya Sabha seat. Mr. Haasan has done the right thing perhaps realising that it would be next to impossible to stay afloat without the backing of either of the two principal Dravidian parties.

Other than the DMDK, the AIADMK does not have any ally to contribute to its vote base even minimally. Six months ago, it left the NDA over differences with the BJP’s State leadership, especially its president K. Annamalai, who criticised former Chief Ministers C.N. Annadurai and Jayalalithaa. Though there have been reports that the BJP’s national leadership is for joining hands with the AIADMK — Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been making laudatory references to Jayalalithaa — the AIADMK’s general secretary Edappadi K. Palaniswami is firm in his resolve not to have any truck with the BJP. Consequently, many parties (such as the TMC (Moopanar) and the PMK), which were with the AIADMK in 2019, have veered towards the BJP, possibly sensing the advantage of allying with a national party. The AIADMK’s breakaway group, led by former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam, and the AMMK of T.T.V. Dhinakaran are a part of the NDA. Contrary to what Mr. Palaniswami might have visualised, after declaring that he would form a “mega alliance”, there has been no migration from the DMK-led front. Whether his conciliatory moves towards religious minorities will have an effect remains to be seen given that they are perceived to be the DMK’s supporters. Mr. Annamalai’s high-decibel campaigning over 36 months and frequent visits by the BJP’s senior leaders, including Mr. Modi, have given the party greater visibility, but the moot question is whether this will translate into votes, or even significant seat wins. The AIADMK remains the principal Opposition party. Ordinarily, the arithmetic in Tamil Nadu politics is a lead factor, but there is no indication so far that the election results will be dramatically different from what they were in 2019, even if the DMK has had to deal with anti-incumbency.

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