The parliamentary elections are crucial to determine who will rule India for the next five years. Besides the Lok Sabha polls, Assembly elections are due to be held simultaneously in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim. Joining them in a virtual full-scale Assembly poll is Tamil Nadu, which will hold bypolls to 18 Assembly seats out of 21 that were lying vacant for long. The very future of the Edappadi Palaniswami government will depend on the results. The Opposition DMK has approached the Supreme Court on three other seats for which the polls have been passed over by the Election Commission as cases are pending in courts. It is upto the court to decide if such reasoning is so specious as to order bypolls there on April 18, along with 39 Lok Sabha seats and 18 Assembly seats.
The battle in 18 or 21 seats will be head-on between the Dravidian majors. The AIADMK and DMK have given away Lok Sabha seats generously to allies while contesting in only about 50 per cent of them, the idea being that they would seek total support for the crucial Assembly seats. The AIADMK has only 108 members in an Assembly of 234 MLAs, but due to vacancies the House’s effective strength is only 213. With the support of six fence-sitters, the Edappadi government has run Tamil Nadu for two of the four years that remained after Jayalalithaa’s death. With the AIADMK needing to win at least nine seats, the fight for the gaddi will be keen as mustard with M.K. Stalin, son of late DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi, facing his biggest test. What happens in Delhi may be less important for Tamil Nadu parties and their allies.