The state of Tamil Nadu will go to polls on April 6, the Election Commission announced today. The counting of votes and declaration of results will happen on May 2, simultaneously with four other states - Puducherry, Kerala, West Bengal, and Assam - where elections will be held.
The issue of notification for the election will happen on March 12. The last date for nomination is March 19. The scrutiny of nominations will take place the next day and candidates have time up to March 22 to withdraw their names.
The 234-seat Tamil Nadu assembly's current term comes to an end in May. In the 2016 election, the AIADMK won 134 seas, the DMK got 89, and the Congress eight.
For the AIADMK, 2016 brought a second straight victory. The late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, however, took ill a little over a year after occupying the chair for the fifth time and passed away shortly after. Following a brief period of uncertainty, the AIADMK chose Edappady K Palaniswami as Chief Minister.
Aside from the tumult created by Ms Jayalalithaa's death, the imprisonment of her aide VK Sasikala in a disproportionate assets case, also added to the crisis in the AIADMK. She was convicted in the case along with the late leader herself. However, only recently, she returned to active politics after serving her time and has already voiced her backing for the AIADMK.
The government today made a couple of last-minute poll-related announcements. First it declared a gold loans waiver scheme against up to six sovereigns given by cooperative banks to farmers and the poor. Justifying the move, Chief Minister Palaniswami said the economy was yet to recover from Covid-19 and this would help the poor redeem the gold they had pledged during the lockdown.
Moments before the poll panel announced the dates, the Tamil Nadu Assembly passed a bill to provide 10.5% reservation for the Vanniyar community (within the 20 per cent most backward class quota).
The opposition DMK, which last ruled between 2006 and 2011, now sees itself in pole position to replace the AIADMK in a state that has mostly alternated between the two parties every five years in recent decades. However, like the AIADMK, it, too, will miss its biggest vote-puller, the late M Karunanidhi who passed away in August 2018.
The vacuum created by the absence of two stalwarts looms large over the state, even as fresh faces look to fill their shoes. Going with the state's tradition, two Tamil movie stars, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, had in recent years declared their intention to enter politics. While Mr Haasan formed the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) in February 2018 and has already launched his poll campaign, Mr Rajinikanth, after much dilly-dallying, decided to back out of his earlier decision, citing ill-health.