The ruling AIADMK, steered by Chief Minister K Palaniswami, is keen to ensure continuation of ''Amma aatchi'' (Amma's rule) for an unprecedented third time while DMK president M K Stalin has invested all his resources to upset his rival's hopes and reverse the wheel of fortune.
The DMK, ousted in 2011 following a dismal show due to a number of factors including the severe power cuts, put up a more spirited performance five years later, getting elevated as the principal opposition party.
In the first assembly election fought in the absence of towering late leaders J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi, the BJP is also putting up a good fight, hoping to romp home with the blessings of Lord Muruga.
A virtual non-player in the past elections which it faced on its own, the BJP, in alliance with the AIADMK, this time is harping on several issues including Tamil culture and pride, after taking on those who allegedly denigrated ''kandasashti kavacham'', a hymn sung in praise of Tamil God Murugan (Lord Muruga).
MNM leader, actor Kamal Haasan is making his electoral debut in 2021, seeking his fortunes from Coimbatore South, part of the western region often hailed as AIADMK''s fortress.
Comprising the districts of Coimbatore, Erode, Tirupur Salem and Namakkal, among others, the western region has generally stood behind the ruling party, returning a large chunk of MLAs, including Palaniswami from his home turf Edapadi in Salem in the outgoing assembly.
Stalin has demonstrated his keenness to make inroads in these districts and is leaving no stone unturned to achieve the goal. The DMK is also banking on its alliance's win in all the Lok Sabha seats in the western parts in 2019 to recreate the performance at a more micro level to sweep the assembly segments as well. Its allies include the Congress and Left.
While a number of pre-poll surveys have indicated a DMK win, some a sweep, the AIADMK is not willing to buy them.
Leaders including Palaniswami have dismissed any kind of anti-incumbency of ten years, calling them a creation of the DMK and insist that the party's pro-people initiatives will take it beyond the finish line comfortably.
AIADMK functionaries insist that the ground reality is different. The party's assurances like free washing machines, six free cylinders a year and houses will convince even the undecided voter to choose their candidates.
Having faced the 2016 elections by its own, under the late Jayalalithaa, AIADMK has aligned with the BJP and PMK and some other local outfits. The party then won 135 seats.
The alliance is being described as a combination of Leaves, Flower and Fruit, alluding to their respective symbols.
The AIADMK's symbol is Two Leaves, Lotus being that of the BJP and Mango is the PMK's election symbol. The ruling side is also confident that its two reservation proposals---the 7.5 per cent quota in medical edcuation for government school students clearing NEET and the 10.5 per cent internal reservation for Vanniyar community, whose interests the PMK claims to represent, will also help it.
A PMK leader told PTI that the Vanniyars will rally behind the AIADMK and by no chance would vote for the DMK.
But, the reservation offering seems to have led to some murmurs in the southern parts, another AIADMK bastion, among the other local dominant castes.
The DMK, on the other hand, is counting on its umbrella combine to recreate the 2019 magic, where it won 38 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats, and is riding high on the various surveys giving it the edge.
However, Stalin has cautioned partymen against any complacency. He has trained his guns against the AIADMK, especially for aligning with BJP, which is still finding it hard to get a firm footing in the Dravidian land. However, the BJP has managed to push its own narrative, managing to bring to the fore the issue of faith and ''Hindu renaissance,'' something the rationalist DMK could not ignore.
Faith, generally, has not been an election topic in Tamil Nadu but the controversy surrounding ''Karuppar Koottam'', an atheist group with alleged DMK links accused of denigrating ''kandasashti kavacham'', prompted the BJP to launch a Vel Yatra, combining the issue with Tamil pride.
Party stalwarts-- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, among others, did not miss an opportunity to strike the right chord, commencing their rallies with the cry "Vetrivel Veeravel," dedicated to Lord Muruga, and often intertwining the issue with Tamil pride and culture.
DMK, known for its rationalist ideology, came under such severe attack from the BJP, AIADMK and right wing groups that Stalin had to clarify his party was not against any particular faith and cited his wife visiting temples and many DMK functionaries sporting vermilion and sacred ash on their forehead. The DMK is also facing backlash over its leader A Raja's alleged offensive remarks against Palaniswami's mother, which prompted the EC to bar him from campaigning in the last phase of election.
This election, after a long time, sees a new player, actor Kamal Haasan, who has jumped into the fray with a centrist agenda, all though he has his critics on either side of the political spectrum.
Many left and Periyarist leaders question his secular credentials while the right wing claims he is an ardent left sympathiser combined with a Dravidian agenda.
He is fighting the battle from Coimbatore South, from a city that has returned both AIADMK and BJP MPs in the past and his rivals are BJP women's wing leader Vanathi Srinivasan and Congress'' Mayrua Jayakumar, both local faces.
Actor-director Seeman's Naam Tamizhar Katchi is also in the fray, making it a multi-cornered fight.