The two rival alliances which were finalised in Tamil Nadu this week have made the electoral scene in the state for the coming Lok Sabha contest clear. The Congress has again tied up with its former UPA ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), and the BJP has expectedly hitched itself to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) whose government in the state it has supported ever since J Jayalalithaa’s death in 2016. They follow the past pattern of the two regional parties leading the alliance with the national parties and small parties bringing up the rear. Both the AIADMK and the DMK have allied themselves with the Congress and the BJP in the past. The AIADMK contested the 2009 elections in alliance with PMK, MDMK and left parties but fought alone in 2014. It swept the elections in 2014. Both parties are contesting the elections for the first time after the death of their top leaders, Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi. The elections are especially crucial for the AIADMK as the survival of its government under Edappadi K Palaniswami will be dependent on the outcome of the by-elections to 21 assembly constituencies, which are likely to be held along with the Lok Sabha election.
Tamil Nadu has 39 seats, out of which the BJP will contest five seats and the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) seven. The PMK has considerable support in the northern districts, especially among the Vanniyar community, and it will be useful for the AIADMK in the by-elections too. Vaiko’s Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and some other small parties may also join the alliance. All these parties together had secured about 60% votes in the last Lok Sabha election, but the situation has changed now with the death of Jayalalithaa and the revolt by the TTV Dhinakaran faction, which has influence in the southern districts. The Palaniswami government does not have a great record to present, either. As for the BJP, it only wants to make whatever gains it can by way of seats and support of allies in a state where it hardly has a presence. Any number may be useful in a Lok Sabha where it cannot expect to have a majority of its own.
According to the seat-sharing plan in the UPA, the DMK will contest about 20 seats and the Congress nine. Other seats have been allotted to small parties like the MDMK and the CPM. It is important for the DMK to do well as it is out power in the state and at the Centre. Party president Stalin has to prove his leadership credentials. The DMK also has high stakes in the by-elections and the state assembly elections that may follow.