It is a bit early for Tamil Nadu to go into election mode with at least four more months left for the AIADMK to relinquish power. But it has happened as the principal contender to the throne, the DMK, launched an all-out war to storm Fort St George quite early, forcing the ruling dispensation to quickly respond. Thus, the battle lines have been drawn between the two traditional rivals, who have been ruling the state alternately since 1967, after that indistinct threat that loomed for about a year in the form of actor Rajinikanth dissipated and the other actor, Kamal Haasan, is not expected to play a big role.
Of course, Mr Haasan is around and has already started going around spouting rhetoric and another actor, Seeman, with his Naam Tamilar Katchi is, as usual, spewing chauvinistic vitriol. But there is no scope for a third front to take on the might of the DMK and AIADMK as a plethora of smaller parties in the state, which include the BJP and Congress that are otherwise political giants at the national level, have started rallying around the Dravidian majors, in the run-up to the state Assembly elections. But the same small parties are now promising to provide scope for some political drama.
The rumblings of discontent in the two coalitions, forged during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, are signs of potential wrangling, triggered by the overt ambitions of the two lead parties that want to rule the state. Both DMK and AIADMK are keen on contesting in an extremely high number of seats, as both are averse to sharing power with allies. For them, alliances are for winning elections and not ruling the state and hence they expect at least a simple majority to form the government on their own. And the fallout is allies not getting the desired number of seats.
In the past, as it happened in 2016, disillusionment over seat allocation had united small parties to form alternative alliances. But this time there is no sign of such rebellions as the small parties seem to be prepared to accept whatever is given, though they have started asserting themselves in a different way. Almost all the parties want to retain their individual identity by contesting in their own symbols and names. Since that goes against the wishes of both the alliance leaders, who want smaller allies to opt for their popular election symbols, thus marking ally candidates, at least in Election Commission records, as their representative, there is bound to be friction and action.
Another thorn in the flesh of the AIADMK is the PMK bargaining for an assurance to provide 20 per cent exclusive reservation for the Vanniyar community that it represents to remain in the alliance. How the AIADMK deals with the belligerent PMK and how both the lead partners coax allies to settle for low numbers of seats would form the next act of the long drawn electoral drama, whose climax is, as said earlier, four months away....