After its Bihar election splash, Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM has tied up with TTV Dhinakaran's Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) for the Tamil Nadu polls next month.
Mr Owaisi's party had in November won five of the 14 seats it had contested in Bihar, and he was tagged as "vote-cutter" and "BJP's B-team" by the opposition front that said the secular votes had been split because of the AIMIM and this had benefited the BJP-led coalition.
As part of its seat share with the AMMK for the April 6 election, the AIMIM will contest three of Tamil Nadu's 234 seats -- Vaniyambadi, Krishnagiri and Sankarapuram.
In 2016, the AIMIM had fielded its state unit chief Vakeel Ahmed from Vaniyambadi and had managed nearly six per cent of the vote share with over 10,000 votes. The AIADMK candidate won. This time, AIMIM's Tamil Nadu unit had given Mr Owaisi a list of 20 seats where it said it could win.
The ruling AIADMK has allied with the BJP and PMK, while the opposition DMK has tied up with the Congress, Left and other parties. Kamal Haasan's MNM is also contest state elections for the first time.
TTV Dhinakaran, a lone player since his aunt VK Sasikala decided to step away from politics ahead of the election, is hoping to at least dent the votes of the AIADMK.
Mr Dhinakaran floated his own outfit after Sasikala was removed as AIADMK chief after her four-year jail sentence in a corruption case. Sasikala's protege E Palaniswami or EPS, then patched up with the rebel faction led by O Panneerselvam or OPS and Mr Dhinakaran was sidelined.
In 2017, Mr Dhinakaran jolted the AIADMK by winning the RK Nagar assembly constituency of their charismatic leader and former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who died in office in 2016.
Mr Dhinakaran failed to live up to the promise in the 2019 national election but his vote share was 8.46 per cent -- worrying for the AIADMK more than any other party as his candidates were seen to cut into AIADMK's votes.
The BJP had reportedly tried to get the AMMK on board to prevent any split in the AIADMK votes. But EPS was reportedly dead against it. According to reports, the Chief Minister was worried about a merger with Mr Dhinakaran eventually enabling Sasikala's return to the top of the AIADMK.
The BJP has reportedly assessed that AMMK can have an impact in more than 40 constituencies.
The AIMIM, scouting for partners, was believed to have also sought out the DMK, but reportedly did not get the response it expected, perhaps because of the other Muslim parties in the alliance like the Indian Union Muslim League and the Manitha Neya Makkal Katchi (MMK).
MMK chief Professor Jawahirullah told NDTV: "Owaisi's party has no following in Tamil Nadu. He is clearly a B-team of AIADMK ally BJP and wants to split secular votes. It will not work here."
In a quick tweet response to the AIMIM-AMMK pact, AIADMK spokesperson Kovai Sathyan said: "What DMK wished to do with AIMIM and backtracked fearing losing its majority vote bank is fulfilled through AMMK, the B team of DMK. DMK's fake minority appeasement drama shall be given a fitting lesson in the upcoming Assembly (polls)."
The results of the Tamil Nadu election will be declared on May 2.