For the first time in 50 years, the Assembly Elections in Tamil Nadu would be held without any leader with larger-than-life image or great popularity capable of swinging the outcome all by oneself.
This is also the first assembly elections after the demise of AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa (d. 2016) and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi (d. 2018).
However, the coming elections may also see the rise of new stars on the political landscape of the state.
The main battle is between DMK president M K Stalin and Edappadi K Palanisamy who became the chief minister rather unexpectedly and later gained control over the government and the party, AIADMK, months after the death of Jayalalithaa in late 2016.
In the absence of star leaders who have the capacity to sway the entire state, coalition equations and political undercurrents would be decisive.
Currently, the DMK seems to have a slight edge. It has been waiting in the opposition wings for the last 10 years to come to power. Landslide mandates are often given by the Tamil voters, as had happened in the last Lok Sabha polls too, but not in the last state elections.
Fate of new formations
It would be interesting to see how many votes the new political entities will secure in the coming polls scheduled for April 6. They include actor Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam, TTV Dinakaran's Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, which has the moral support of Jayalalithaa's aide V K Sasikala, and filmmaker Seeman's Naam Tamizhar Katchi, which has roots in rural Tamil Nadu. These parties are not part of any of the major fronts.
The entire state is also awaiting eagerly to know about the stand of superstar Rajinikanth who decided at the last minute not to form his party.
Battle lines are drawn
The coalition formation witnessed in 2019 is emerging again. With the DMK are parties like Congress, the Left, Muslim League, Dalit party VCK and Vaiko's MDMK. In the Lok Sabha elections, the DMK-led front had secured 52% votes. However, the VCK, the Left and MDMK were part of actor Vijayakanth's front Makkal Nala Kootani (People's Welfare Alliance) during the last assembly elections. The latter had secured 6% votes while the difference between AIADMK and DMK was less than 1% at that time.
BJP, Vijayakanth's DMDK, Sarathkumar's Samatva Makkal Katchi and PMK, which has good influence in North-east Tamil Nadu, are the prominent parties in the AIADMK-led front now. The PMK which contested alone had secured 5.3 % votes in the last assembly elections, while the BJP got 2.8% votes.
AIADMK which managed to retain power in the last assembly election under Jayalalithaa has to be wary of anti-incumbency. If the party performs badly in the April elections, Sasikala might take control of their organisation. The chief minister and his deputy O Panneerselvam anticipate such a threat.
The Thevar community to which Sasikala belongs is the backbone of AIADMK in southern districts. It remains to be seen how the rebellion by Sasikala and Dinakaran would impact the vote bank.
Results: 2016 Assembly polls
Total seats - 234
AIADMK - 136 seats (40.88% votes)
DMK-led front - 98 seats (39.1 %)
Makkal Nala Kootani - 6.1 %
PMK - 5.36 %
BJP - 2.86 %
Results: 2019 Lok Sabha polls
Total seats - 39
DMK alliance - 38 (52.3 %)
AIADMK coalition - 1 (31.26 %).
Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam - 5.25%
Makkal Neethi Maiyyam - 4%.
2019 Assembly bypolls
In the 25 assembly by-elections held after 2016 assembly polls, the DMK had won 13, the AIADMK 11 and an Independent one.