The 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu will be the first since independence not to feature a larger-than-life figure. It will also be a litmus test for AIADMK and DMK after the deaths of their biggest leaders—J. Jayalalithaa and M. Karunanidhi. Mint analyses the electoral dynamics of the state.

Who is in the fray?

Tamil Nadu, where politics and cinema have been intertwined for long, will see a four-cornered fight between the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA); the DMK-Congress alliance; Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam and T.T.V Dinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, a breakaway faction of AIADMK. NDA includes the BJP, Pattali Makkal Katchi, Vijaya-kanth’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam and three small parties. Left parties, Vaiko’s Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and the Indian Union Muslim League are with the Congress and DMK.

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What has changed since the 2014 polls?

The key figures in Tamil Nadu politics, J. Jayalalithaa of AIADMK and M. Karunanidhi of DMK, have passed away, leaving a vacuum. Both served as chief minister five times, were embroiled in massive corruption scandals and drew voters with their charisma and offers of freebies. Their deaths have left the two parties weaker, with AIADMK witnessing a bitter leadership feud and a split. This has given national parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party hope of making inroads in the state. DMK has been a divided house, with M.K. Alagiri revolting against brother Stalin, but the latter retaining control of the party.

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Is Rajinikanth contesting?

No. In December 2017, the superstar said he would enter politics, but is yet to launch a political party. On 10 March 2019, the actor said he would contest neither the general elections nor the bypolls to 21 assembly seats.

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What are the key issues this time?

The key issues include a severe shortage of water, rising farm distress, caste issues, increasing unemployment, the adverse effects of demonetization and the implementation of the goods and services tax, and the imposition of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test. There is also a general dislike among the people for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, considering the social media hashtags that trend when he visits the state. The anti-Sterlite stir and the killing of 13 people in police firing in Tuticorin are other issues.

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What’s the outlook for the elections?

AIADMK and DMK have ceded ground to national parties. The number of seats given by DMK to the Congress is surprising, considering the latter had a vote share of just about 5% in the 2014 elections. Under the leadership of Stalin, DMK lost the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2016 assembly polls. This election will indicate how the two major Dravidian parties will fare after the death of their biggest leaders. It’s also the first election with leaders who don’t have a film background. Haasan is not yet a force to reckon with in politics.

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