The sixteenth legislative assembly election is to be held on 6 April 2021 to elect members from 234 constituencies of the Legislative Assembly in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. The term of the previous Fifteenth Legislative Assembly of Tamil Nadu will end on 24 May 2021. Voting will be done in single phase on April 6, 2021.

In Tamil Nadu, the balance of power has traditionally see-sawed between the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) since 1967. The 2021 elections will again be a direct contest between the two major Dravidian political forces.

This is the first legislative assembly election to be held in the state after the deaths of two key leaders J. Jayalalithaa and M. Karunanidhi, as they both died in 2016 and 2018 respectively.

“In the absence of the two leaders, this is the most crucial elections. For Stalin, this is a test that he will have to pass. For the AIADMK and Palaniswami, this is an equally formidable test,” said R Kannan, biographer of ex-CMs MG Ramachandran and C N Annadurai.

During the 2016 assembly elections, the AIADMK won 135 seats, while the DMK won 98.

Dravidian majors AIADMK and DMK on Tuesday continued seat-sharing talks with their respective key allies BJP and Congress for the coming Tamil Nadu assembly elections but no outcome emerged.


The DMK:

The DMK is headed by M K Stalin, Karunanidhi’s son, and it has a partnership with the Congress and the Left parties.

The DMK-led alliance seems more united with its allies working towards making DMK president MK Stalin the next CM. The heir apparent is also already in place—Stalin’s son and DMK’s youth wing secretary Udhayanidhi Stalin will contest from Karunanidhi’s favoured constituency, Chepauk in Chennai. “The DMK appears as a cohesive unit because it is riding on its Lok Sabha performance, although that was mostly a vote against (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi here. And there is a general impression that they are poised to come to power. The DMK won 38 seats in the Lok Sabha poll.

The DMK-Congress talks on seat-sharing seem to have hit a deadlock with the Dravidian party adamant on offering only 18 seats while the Congress wants twice of that.

Tamil Nadu Congress Committee President K S Alagiri said the talks with DMK Treasurer and Lok Sabha MP TR Baalu-led delegation were ‘cordial’. However, he declined to say how many seats the national party has sought but said a decision on the seat allocation might be made in another two days.

“They (DMK delegation) need to talk to their leaders, and so do we,” he told reporters.

DMK held similar discussions with allies CPI and CPI(M). CPI(M) state secretary K Balakrishnan said “we have insisted on our numbers and they have expressed their difficulties,” vis-a-vis allocation to other coalition partners, he said.

It is rumoured through the Grapevine has it that the Congress may look at Mr Haasan’s MNM as an alternative.



The AIADMK is now headed by the combine of chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami and deputy CM O Paneerselvam, foes-turned-friends, who, along with their electoral ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party, will be seeking a successive third term.

“The AIADMK cannot be written off; because it has already sealed its deal with PMK allotting it 23 seats. Now, that the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) is with them will give them an edge in the northern districts,” said a senior leader. The latter is a party of the Vanniyar community, and, interestingly, Palanaiswami’s last act before polls were announced was to pass an order that gives 10.5% internal reservation to Vanniyar community within the existing 20% reservation for the Most Backward Classes. Though the DMK swept the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the situation has vastly changed since.

The AIADMK held talks with BJP, whose delegation included Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy and party’s state election in-charge. The AIADMK side was represented by senior leaders including K P Munusamy and R Vaithilingam, party sources said. A senior BJP leader, said the party wanted to clinch the seat-sharing deal before Shah’s expected visit on March 7 to the state for a public meeting where all the alliance leaders could share the dais. However, there was no word on the seats sought by the BJP from the AIADMK. Seat-sharing talks with AIADMK not ‘dragging’, says Tamil Nadu BJP chief

The AIADMK, also continued discussions with actor Vijayakant-led DMDK on sharing of the seats for the April 6 polls.

The BJP, which has no MLA or MP in Tamil Nadu, will contest the elections in alliance with the AIADMK, which has a strong hold in the state’s western region, comprising Coimbatore. In an election rally Modi said, “the way the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-led Centre worked with the AIADMK in the state was a classic example of cooperative federalism.”

Continuing his tirade against the main Opposition party in the state, Modi said the DMK was “promoting a strongman culture” with “anti-social elements” in every district. “Who suffers most in such a culture? Women,” he said.

“Entire Tamil Nadu knows how the DMK treated ‘Amma’ Jayalalithaaji. Leaders who troubled Jayalalithaaji were rewarded by the Congress and the DMK,” he said, referring to a 1989 incident when Jayalalithaa, who was then the leader of opposition, was allegedly assaulted in the assembly.

Recalling the power-cuts during the DMK’s regime, Modi said the Dravidian party has “lost the right to be called an all-Tamil Nadu party”. “Last time they won a majority on their own in the state was 25 years ago…”


The Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM):

Kamal Haasan floated the MNM in 2018 as an alternative to the Dravidian forces of DMK and AIADMK. Even going by Tamil Nadu’s tradition of matinee-idols-turned leaders, Kamal Haasan, at 62, was a relatively late entrant to the political scene.

MNM made its political debut in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. MNM received only around 4% votes, but it did capture 10% of all urban pockets. This may explain his city-town focus in the second round.

Kamal Haasan will be the chief ministerial candidate for MNM in the 2021 assembly election.

Yet, his Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) has been one of the earliest among all state or national-level parties to have hit campaign mode this poll season. On March 3, it launched the next phase of the drive amid intense speculation that the Congress is exploring a tie up with it following hiccups in its seat sharing with major partner, the DMK. The thespian, however, said, “I’d refrain from guesswork. If it (any alliance) happens, we’d let you know.”

MNM Chief Kamal Haasan chose Alandur, a highly symbolic locality in state capital Chennai, to launch the second phase. He chose Alandur, a highly symbolic locality in state capital Chennai, to launch its second phase. The Tamil word puratchi or revolution has resonated with generations of Tamil voters, ever since AIADMK founder and one of Tamil cinema best-known faces, MG Ramachandran, launched the party in Alandur in 1967. He went on to represent the Assembly constituency, earlier known as Parangimalai, twice. The title, Puratchi Thalaivar or “Revolutionary Leader” remained with the two-time Chief Minister till it passed on to his protege, J Jayalalithaa, Puratchi Thalaivi.

The actor-turned-politician started the next leg of campaign for the party on March 3. At a roadshow, Mr Haasan, 65, sought to strike that note of nostalgia when he said, “It’s from here that a part of Revolutionary Leader MG Ramachandran’s political debut began. We are on the brink of a change in history and that power is in your hands.” 

Earlier, he also released his party’s key promises for women and youth, including salary for housewives, assistance for single mothers, guaranteed jobs for youth with the creation of five lakh jobs, and free shelters for women in distress.

Addressing this season’s first public meeting at the Mylapore constituency in Chennai, Mr Haasan, meanwhile, tacitly targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Taking on the latter’s penchant for public reciting of Tamil poetry, he said the era when people voted someone spoke in Tamil was gone.

“Our language and culture are not for sale. You impose NEET and Hindi. Our children and education are not for sale. We will only award marks for the recitation of Thirukkural,” the political debutant said.

A little over two months after he flagged off MNM’s poll campaign from Madurai, Mr Haasan hasn’t slowed down despite a medical surgery and even after fellow traveller Rajinikanth’s anticlimactic fall by the wayside.

Haasan also held talks with Samathuva Makkal Katchi (SMK) president and actor R Sarathkumar along with members of Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi (IJK) on February 28, for a potential alliance. AISMK after walking out of the AIADMK alliance a day ago joined hands with IJK which walked out from the DMK coalition. “I have travelled with AIADMK for the past 10 years but there were no talks with us. Even DMDK’s Premalatha spoke about the delay. Hence, we have decided to form an alliance with good people and similar ideology,” Sarathkumar said at a press briefing.

Although actor Rajinikanth has decided not to enter the political fray, actor-politician Kamal Haasan has positioned his party Makkal Needhi Maiam as an alternative to the Dravidian parties by promising a corruption-free government.

The question remains, though: Could Kamal Haasan’s debut have a bearing on the main opposition alliance?

The Indhiya Makkal Munnetra Katchi

Meanwhile, R Arjunamurthy, who was formerly with the BJP and later joined actor Rajinikanth, floated his own political party, the Indhiya Makkal Munnetra Katchi, on Saturday. Rajinikanth announced he would launch the political party in December 2020 but backed out citing health issues. Arjunamurthy invited Rajinikanth’s fans to join. Rajinikanth released a congratulatory statement saying, “I extend my wishes to Arjunamurthy who has floated a new independent party.” Amidst the buzz of Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) looking at forming a third front, the actor-turned-politician said that the party’s first list of candidates would be announced on March 7 for the upcoming assembly polls slated for April 6 in Tamil Nadu.