The new year is set to ring in a fresh chapter in Tamil Nadu’s politics.
With Sasikala Natarajan having officially assumed control of the AIADMK, and their bitter rivals, the DMK, set to name MK Stalin as their working president on January 4, the face of politics has completely changed.
For people of the state, the last three decades can be defined by two names: Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi.
For the AIADMK, Sasikala’s elevation will ensure that the party remains united. “Chinamma (Sasikala) has proven that she has what it takes to lead us for the next four-and-a-half years,” says a party leader.
Others, however, remain unconvinced. “The ruling party has four-and-a-half years to do whatever they want,” says political analysts Gnani Sankaran. “But their real test will be in 2019 — the General Elections — and in 2021, when the state goes to the polls.”
The AIADMK also has the contend with the suspicious death of their leader, Jayalalithaa, especially in light of the Madras high court’s recent observation that more light was needed on the matter.
Senior BJP leaders see an opportunity in a state which has historically rejected national parties. “We have a long time to form alliances with the smaller district parties in time for the next elections...” says a state unit coordinator.
Those smaller parties include the People’s Welfare Front — a six-party coalition whose disastrous performance in the 2016 elections meant that no Left party secured any constituency.
With Vaiko’s MDMK having announced that they would be leaving the coalition, the remaining parties have to choose who to ally with.
Though Sasikala has no public political experience, Stalin does. He will also face challenges, however, especially from the old guard of the party which was dissatisfied with his leadership during the campaign earlier this year.