The ruling AIADMK is pulling out all the stops to retain power in Tamil Nadu for the third time in a row even as several pre-poll surveys suggest a change of guard in the State with the DMK-led alliance set to regain power.

In the absence of a clear wave in favour of either the AIADMK or DMK, Tamil Nadu Assembly polls, it seems, is headed for a nail-biting contest between the two Dravidian majors.

While the ruling party may largely emerge unscathed from anti-incumbency despite being in power for a decade, what should worry it is the impact of smaller parties such as Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), led by VK Sasikala’s nephew, TTV Dhinakaran.

If the voting trends in 2019 Lok Sabha election and Assembly by-polls in Tamil Nadu are any indication, AMMK can spoil the chances of the ruling AIADMK, especially in 10 southern districts, which collectively account for 58 seats in the 234-member Assembly. In the by-election to 22 Assembly seats held two years ago, the ruling AIADMK managed to win only 9 seats.

The opposition DMK, on the other hand, won the remaining 13 seats to increase its presence in the Assembly.

AMMK alone was responsible for the defeat of the AIADMK in four constituencies, including in its bastion Andipatti, besides Periyakulam, Ottapidaram and Tirupparankundram. The number of votes polled by AMMK candidates in these constituencies were higher than the victory margin of the winners in these constituencies.

“AMMK votes are once Jayalalithaa votes so these voters don’t accept Edappadi Palaniswami’s leadership,” said political analyst Ravindran Duraisamy.

From 5.27 per cent vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the AMMK increased its share to around 7 per cent in the Assembly bypolls.

It scored more than one lakh votes in five Lok Sabha constituencies in southern Tamil Nadu, which is dominated by Mukulathors, the caste to which Sasikala and TTV Dhinakaran belong.

Caste reservation

Besides the TTV factor, the issue of caste reservation is likely to cost the AIADMK dearly in the Mukulathor-dense southern region. The 10.5 per cent internal reservation sanctioned for the Vanniyar community didn’t go well with Thevar community.

Political observers say while the reservation may help AIADMK-led coalition in the north and western parts, it could face backlash from non-Vanniyar voter base, especially from the Thevar community.

Political analyst Sumanth Raman, however, said AMMK will have limited impact in some constituencies in the Delta region and southern Tamil Nadu but not beyond that. “TTV votes are mostly community-based votes so beyond that community he will not make a huge impact, but he will damage AIADMK in some constituencies in Southern region and Delta, but he will have no influence in northern and western region,” said Raman.

“Many of the candidates contesting in AMMK tickets are ex-AIADMK members, so naturally their appeal and vote bank are from the original AIADMK. Hence, AMMK will predominantly cut only AIADMK votes,” he added.