Tamil Nadu's first national election after the death of two colossal figures in Dravidian politics - former Chief Ministers J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi -- is likely to be an acid test of the leadership of E Palaniswami and his rival-turned deputy O Panneerselvam and the gen-next in the DMK. What would bring their contest against DMK's MK Stalin into sharper focus is an expected mini assembly polls. Elections need to be held in 21 of the state's 234 assembly seats and the results would determine if the AIADMK government led by Mr Palaniswami would survive.
The government of EPS - as the Chief Minister is known among supporters - fell four seats short of majority after the Speaker had disqualified 18 lawmakers who supported TTV Dhinakaran. The lawmakers, in a letter to the Governor, had demanded that the Chief Minister be replaced and then openly rebelled.
It is the perceived weakness of the AIADMK since the death of Jayalalithaa - marked by factionalism and rivalry -- that is seen to have pushed the party into an alliance with the BJP, whose presence in the state has so far been minimal.
In the 2014 national election, the BJP had won just one of the state's 39 seats, compared to the AIADMK's 37. The other had gone to ally PMK. The DMK and the Congress, which ended their alliance ahead of the elections, drew a blank.
This time, the Congress and the DMK have formed an alliance ahead of the elections. The Congress is to have 9 of the state's 39 Lok Sabha seats and the lone seat in Puducherry.
The alliance with the AIADMK has brought the BJP 5 seats - despite its poor showing in the state in 2014. Unsure of the outcome, both partners have also roped in smaller partners like the PMK. Talks are on to bring in actor Vijayakanth's DMDK.
The wildcard in the elections is expected to be TTV Dhinakaran, the nephew of VK Sasikala. Sidelined by the party after Sasikala - the live-in aide of J Jayalalithaa - was jailed in a corruption case, TTV Dhinakaran bounced back with a sweeping victory in the by-election at RK Nagar, the seat held by Jayalalithaa. He also successfully engineered the breakaway of 18 rebels in the AIADMK, which made the by-elections necessary. Actor turned politician Kamal Hassan's MNM too is likely to fight alone.
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