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2024 Elections: A Three-Way Fight on 39 LS Seats in Tamil Nadu as BJP Goes Solo

Friends-turned-foes BJP and AIADMK are in direct contest in over 15 Parliamentary constituencies in Tamil Nadu.

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Tamil Nadu, which goes to polls on Friday, 19 April to elect 39 Lok Sabha MPs in a single-phase election, is set to witness a three-way battle as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) – the two well-entrenched Dravidian parties – take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

While the elections are critical for the BJP as they strive hard to make inroads in Tamil Nadu, the DMK hopes to repeat its 2019 outcome, when the alliance led by it backed 38 out of 39 seats. The AIADMK, meanwhile, hopes for a comeback after losing two consecutive elections.

The electoral outcome is also likely to set the tone for the 2026 Assembly elections that are just about two years from now.

Can the K Annamalai-led BJP breach the Dravidian fortress in Tamil Nadu or will the DMK and the AIADMK have the last laugh? Nearly 6.23 crore voters in the state are set to decide their fate.

The Quint breaks down for you what's at stake in Tamil Nadu this time, and which are the key constituencies and candidates to watch out for.

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DMK vs AIADMK vs BJP: What's at Stake?

The ruling DMK wishes to continue its winning streak with the help of its allies, namely the Congress, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), the Communist Party of India (CPI), and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).

Though the DMK seems to be in a pole position, the party faces resistance in some regions from its traditional rival AIADMK and the BJP-led NDA in a few seats.

The DMK's loyal votes come from communities such as the Vellalars, the Mudhaliyars, the Udaiyars, the Nadars, the Naidus, and Muslims. 

A closer look at the DMK's month-long campaign shows how Chief Minister MK Stalin and party leaders repeatedly attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP, often branding them as "anti-Tamil Nadu" and "anti-federalism."

In an interview with The Quint in March, DMK MP Kanimozhi said that the 2024 election was about "freeing India from the BJP."

Meanwhile, after breaking a five-year long marriage with the BJP, the Palaniswami-led AIADMK, which was left scrambling to find alliance partners, is fighting alongside the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), Tamizhagam (PT), and the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI).

Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM has also extended its support to the AIADMK.

The party, which initially was seen as the underdog in the contest, has managed to change the perception and become the main opposition to the DMK.

Political experts The Quint spoke to said that the AIADMK was focusing on retaining its traditional vote bank of over 25% to prove that its "core vote bank" has remained intact.

It's a prestige battle for the AIADMK in the Kongu region of western Tamil Nadu, which has eight Lok Sabha seats, as this area has long been considered an AIADMK stronghold. To add on is the presence of the Goundar community (5-7% of the population), which Palaniswami belongs to.

Finally, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's frequent visits to Tamil Nadu, it is obvious that the state is an important part of the BJP's "Mission South."

Despite its dismal show in the 2019 elections in Tamil Nadu, the BJP is now pushing hard to increase its vote share from the 3.6% it garnered the last time. It hopes to bag at least four Lok Sabha constituencies – Vellore, Coimbatore, Tirunelveli, and Kanyakumari.

Spearheaded by TN BJP chief K Annamalai, the party managed to get garner support from parties such as the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), the Tamil Maanila Congress, the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK), which is a breakaway faction of the AIADMK led by TTV Dhinakaran. The party is also backing former CM O Panneerselvam (OPS) who is contesting as an Independent.

Vanniyars, who constitute 12% to 15% of the population, are politically represented through the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK). With this, the BJP hopes to get an entry into the Northern parts of Tamil Nadu. In the BJP-PMK alliance, who will benefit from whom? Read our analysis here.

Meanwhile, Thevars, who constitute around 12% of the population, are largely concentrated in Tamil Nadu’s southern districts. With the alliance with AMMK and OPS, the BJP hopes to gain from these areas.

Friends-turned-foes BJP and AIADMK are in direct contest in over 15 Parliamentary constituencies in Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu BJP presidnt K Annamalai campaigning in Coimbatore ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. 

(Photo: X/@kannamalai)

Throughout the campaign, Annamalai and the BJP have tried to position itself as the main opposition party. The elections will also be a test of the leadership of the BJP chief.

The party's campaign in Tamil Nadu had been centred around state-specific issues, including the Katchatheevu dispute during which it targeted both the Congress and the DMK. Did it help or hurt the BJP? Read our opinion piece here.

From the Kashi Tamil Sangamam, to the Sengol in the new Parliament building, the BJP also sought to champion the Tamil language and culture at every level. How voters respond to 2024 Lok Sabha elections call will shape the BJP's future in navigating the challenge of creating an alternative to Dravidian politics.

This time, friends-turned-foes BJP and AIADMK are also in direct contest in over 15 Parliamentary constituencies. Political experts told The Quint that this time, traditional anti-DMK voters might not entirely vote for the AIADMK, and this might result in a vote split.

Read more about the split in our ground report here.

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10 Top Constituencies to Watch Out For 

  • Coimbatore: With K Annamalai contesting from here, the battle for Coimbatore will be the most watched. The IPS-officer-turned-politician and BJP chief is up against the DMK's Ganapathy P Rajkumar and the AIADMK's Singai G Ramachandran.

  • Chennai South: The segment – a traditional DMK bastion – is set to witness a triangular contest among former Telangana governor and BJP leader Tamilisai Soundararajan, incumbent DMK MP Thamizhachi Thangapandian, and former AIADMK MP J Jayavardhan.

Despite the anti-incumbency, the DMK seems to have an edge in the constituency due to the split in opposition votes between the AIADMK and BJP. But can Tamilisai overcome this and win the seat from here? Read our ground report here.

  • Nilgris: Home turf of DMK leader A Raja, this constituency, which is reserved for the scheduled castes, may witness a four-cornered contest this time with Raja, Union Minister and the BJP's L Murugan, the AIADMK’s Lokesh Tamilselvan, and Naam Tamilar Katchi’s A Jayakumar.

  • Kanniyakumari: It was this district that provided an opening for the BJP in the Lok Sabha 1996. This election, both the national parties, the BJP and the Congress, have fielded prominent figures – Pon Radhakrishnan and Vijay Vasanth, respectively. Kanniyakumari has a unique religious constitution of about 48.65% Hindus, 46.85% Christians, and 4.2% Muslims as per the 2011 census.

  • Sivaganga: Incumbent MP Karti Chidambaram is aiming for a re-election from a seat his father and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has won seven times. This time, Karti is competing against the BJP's T Devanathan Yadav and the AIADMK's Xavier Dass.

  • Ramanathapuram: The highlight of the constituency, which faces Sri Lanka, is the candidature of O Panneerselvam. Interestingly, OPS faces four candidates with the same name.

  • Virudhunagar: Home to Sivakasi, India's firecracker capital, Virudhungar will witness a battle between incumbent Congress MP Manickam Tagore, actress and BJP candidate Radhika Sarathkumar, and late actor and DMDK leader Vijayakanth's son V Vijaya Prabakaran.

  • Tirunelveli: With its mix of prominent castes such as OBC Nadars and Thevars, a substantial presence of SCs/STs, and its large Muslim population, this is an important constituency. This time, the BJP's Nainar Nagendran will fight against M Jansi Rani (AIADMK), Dr C Robert Bruce (Congress), and Sathya (NTK).

  • Theni: This constituency will witness a battle between old friends: AMMK leader and VK Sasikala's nephew TTV Dhinakaran and the DMK's Tamil Selvan. Theni has a predominant Thevar population and OPS is highly respected in the community. 

  • Dharmapuri: This high-profile seat is seeing PMK leader Anbumani Ramdoss's wife Souwmiya Anbumani contest against the DMK's A Mani and AIADMK's R Ashokan.

Interestingly, India's biggest election loser Dr K Padmarajan is contesting from Dharmapuri. Ranging from local to Lok Sabha polls, Padmarajan, popularly known as the 'Election King,' has contested 238 elections, but has lost them all.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  AIADMK   DMK   MK Stalin 

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