Both the BJP and Congress have clinched seat pacts with the dominant regional forces in Tamil Nadu for the upcoming general election. The BJP announced a tie-up with the AIADMK, the party in office in the state, and the PMK on Tuesday whereas the DMK and Congress formally declared a seat deal on Wednesday. Some smaller outfits and the communist parties are also a part of these alliances, making the parliamentary elections a direct contest between two fronts. The AIADMK, which will contest the bulk of 39 seats in Tamil Nadu, has said it will seek votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi whereas DMK chief M K Stalin had endorsed Congress President Rahul Gandhi for prime minister some time ago at a public event in Chennai. Simply put, the battle in Tamil Nadu will mirror the national narrative this time unlike in 2014, when the state saw multi-cornered contests with the two Dravidian majors, the AIADMK and DMK, seeking a mandate in the name of their chiefs.
The two alliances also reveal the churn in Tamil Nadu politics, which seems to be diminishing the strength of the Dravidian titans. With the passing away of J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi, the AIADMK and DMK are short of charismatic, pan-state leaders who can sway voters. Stalin is an experienced campaigner, but the DMK is yet to win an assembly or a general election since 2009. The AIADMK is a much weakened force after the splits in the party, evident in the party’s decision to contest upto 25 seats in the state and leave the rest to allies. This is in sharp contrast to 2014 when the party refused to part with any seat to potential allies, projected Jayalalithaa as the party’s PM face and won an unprecedented 37 seats. Its present leadership of chief minister Edappadi Palaniswamy and deputy CM O Panneerselvam have opted for an alliance that has the potential to be a formidable socio-political coalition, particularly in western Tamil Nadu. The DMK, facing its first electoral test after the death of Karunanidhi, too has opted to consolidate the sentiment against the governments in New Delhi and Chennai by making concessions to the Congress, which was isolated and targeted during the 2014 election for refusing to intervene in the ethnic war in Sri Lanka in favour of the LTTE.
It is anybody’s guess if the alliances will stay beyond the general election. But the results will have a bearing on almost every party and influence the political dynamic in the state.