During the first two years of his tenure, life was on hold for EPS as AMMK official TTV Dhinakaran unleashed sustained attacks, pulling the rug from under the chief minister’s feet by courting deputies from the ‘AIADMK.
Stalin’s decision to wait for the EPS government to collapse under its own weight helped the CM to a great extent. Finally, it took a mini general election in the assembly in 2019 for him to stabilize his government.
Since then, EPS has graduated in the Art of Political Tightrope Management. With a host of populist ploys – such as distributing money to people during the coronavirus pandemic, awarding compensation of Rs 1,715 crore to farmers affected by natural disasters and a waiver of the farm loan of Rs 12,110 crore – EPS has earned a some pan-Tamil Nadu acceptance for some time.
He has sought to appease government workers and teachers, numbering over 12 lakh, by pushing the retirement age back to 60. And finally, to appease ally PMK, he announced a 10.5% internal reservation for Vanniyars. The AIADMK front is ready to fight with the DMK front. The DMK front, on the other hand, is a formidable force and has proven its strength by winning 38 of Lok Sabha’s 39 seats in the 2019 elections.
None of the allies, be it Congress, CPI, CPM, MDMK, VCK, IUML or Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi, pose a threat to the Dravidian Major, at least outwardly. Many of them even resigned themselves to the fact that their candidates would have to argue over DMK’s rising sun symbol. With a series of outreach programs, Stalin has been interacting with the electorate across the state for several months.
However, a spike too early in the campaign could make the alliance complacent, as happened in 2016. The western Gounder belt, which led DMK to the 2016 assembly elections, continues to pose major challenges. at the DMK front as the AIADMK morphed into a Gounder-dominated party following the disappearance of J Jayalalithaa.
The southern districts, with a considerable presence of minorities, both Christian and Muslim, represent a challenge for the AIADMK front. BJP’s presence in the group could impact AIADMK’s prospects there. To add to his concerns, VK Sasikala and his community Thevar could split the pro-AIADMK votes.