The dominance of the Dravidian parties — and the personal clout of Kalaignar M Karunanidhi of the DMK and Amma J Jayalalithaa of the AIADMK —in Tamil Nadu politics remains intact.
Meaning, there’s a very little space left for the national parties — led by the aliens from the other side of the Vindhyas — such the Congress and the BJP even when it comes to Parliament elections.
So far, the national parties had a simple solution: Ride piggyback on the two local biggies to keep their presence in Tamil Nadu. And by the strength of their numbers, the regional parties have always had a say in government formation and enjoy the fruits of power.But the scene is a little different this time, after Kalaignar’s daughter Kanimozhi and DMK’s union minister A Raja were sent to jail in the 2G spectrum scam. Even the AIADMK has become less accommodative because of Jayalalithaa’s growing prime ministerial ambition.
The Congress, which hasn’t yet firmed up any pre-poll tie-up, would be hard-pressed to repeat its 2009 performance when it had a tie-up with the DMK. Plus, factionalism is still eating away the party’s prospects in the state.
Similarly, the BJP, although re-energised by the emergence of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, haven’t forged any major alliance till now. But observers say if it does manage to rope in a regional ally, its prospects would be rather bright.
Among the most talked-about constituencies in Tamil Nadu, the three Chennai constituencies have generally been DMK’s for the taking. The seats have returned the party’s top leaders, such as the late Murasoli Maran, TR Baalu, Dayanidhi Maran, to the Lok Sabha in the past.
Traditionally, the city has voted in favour of the DMK both in parliamentary and assembly elections, though things changed in the 2011 state polls, with AIADMK breaching DMK’s fort in Chennai. In 2009, Baalu was shifted to Sriperumbudur from South Chennai and the DMK lost the seat to the AIADMK.
Another seat, Sivaganga, has for long been safe for Union finance minister P Chidambaram, who has been elected from there for no less than six times and is known to have taken “good care” of the constituency.
If he chooses to contest from this constituency again, he is expected to emerge a winner. The rural constituency has seen the Congress romp home most often and the trend doesn’t seem to have changed yet.
Madurai, the third largest city in Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, is set for an interesting and multi-cornered contest. Although it has always been with the DMK and the Left parties — traditional allies — the CPI and CPI(M) this time have joined hands with Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK.
Friends turning foes has never been a common factor in the politically orthodox south. But this election, Madurai will witness another tussle between friends — father and son, in fact — turning foes.
After Karunanidhi’s rift with his elder son, M Alagiri, over the second son, Stalin, getting the successor’s crown, the DMK’s fortunes in Madurai — considered to be Alagiri’s backyard — do not look to optimistic.
It may be noted that since this election may be fought in the state on the development plank — with a sprinkling of emotional issues, of course — factors such as power and water crisis and poor infrastructure in rural areas may come to the fore.
The poor monsoon has led to water shortage in many districts and Madurai, in particular, is expected to suffer during the summer when the elections are scheduled.
There is talk already that the water issue may be a factor in the polls as power will certainly be.
It is well known that Tamil Nadu was dogged by power problems for the past couple of years, leading to several hours of load-shedding every day. Although the situation has improved a great deal recently, the scene is not very encouraging in the districts.
Though there is no certainty as of now on who will contest from where, it can be said that prominent names like Dayanidhi Maran and TR Baalu, both former Union ministers, and much-maligned A Raja will certainly be in the fray.
AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa is known to spring surprises and it has to be seen if she opts for fielding known faces or goes in for fresh ones.
While the Congress has already begun the process of selecting candidates, the third largest party, actor Vijayakanth’s DMDK, too, has got into the poll mode and conducted several interviews with prospective candidates.
Finally, the 2014 general elections in Tamil Nadu are likely to be four or even five-cornered contests in several constituencies, given the manner in which the pre-poll alignments shape up.