Matinee Idol to Mainstream Politics
Captain Vijayakanth’s relentless yet resolute rise in the TN political arena
People of Tamil Nadu are akin to power being swung between the Dravidian duo – DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam). Frustrated by the ruling party, they often elect the opposition only to be let down again. Although national parties like Congress and BJP, regional parties like MDMK and PMK contest in assembly and Lok Sabha elections, none of them were able to cause a sizeable dent to the vote banks of the former chieftains. In recent history, one person is emerging to be the king maker; one party is threatening to topple the iron hold of the Dravidian regime that has reigned for centuries. Will this wild card entry prove crucial in the coming elections?
Captain Vijayakanth formed the DMDK (Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam) in 2005 along the lines of the regional Dravidian policies that governed both AIADMK and DMK. Although Vijayakanth followed the time tested route of cinema to politics, he was hardly seen as a revolutionary along the likes of the late Makkal Thilagam MGR. Despite acting in the same period that honed stars like Kamal Hassan and Rajinikanth, Vijayakanth was able to form a considerable fan following and his movies were mostly chartbusters. His moniker Captain was from the 100th film Captain Prabhakaran which ran to packed houses for several weeks.(He also runs a local television channel under the same name – Captain TV which blasts his propaganda) Vijayakanth hails from Madurai (which is supposedly controlled by DMK supremo’s son MK Alagiri) and represents the Rishivadanam constituency.
After its formation in 2005, DMDK contested in all 234 seats in the 2006 state elections. (This was the year Lok Paritan (formed by IIT graduates) also entered the fray.) Off the 234, only Vijayakanth won from the Virudhunagar constituency yet his party managed to pull an 8.38% vote share. This would prove significant in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections where they made strong inroads into the heartland of PMK. (PMK and DMDK are credited to be the two fence sitters drawing their alliances in the nth minute). Although they lost in all the 39 seats contested independently they emerged triumphant within the party by increasing its vote share to 10.08%. With two crucial moves that proved acutely significant, the party was adeptly prepared for the 2011 state elections.
So far DMDK remained unallied and contested independently. In 2011, the party’s decision to join hands with AIADMK proved favorable for Vijayakanth. In the sole effort to defeat the ruling DMK party, its alliance gave voters minimal choice. By collaborating with the opposition, as orchestrated by AIADMK strategist Cho Ramaswamy, DMDK ensured that voters chose their party if they decided to go against the DMK. Since DMK was tainted with the 2G spectrum issue, inflation and overreaching dynastic dominance, the widespread dissatisfaction would guarantee an AIADMK victory.
Actor Vijay also voiced support for AIADMK and his Makkal
Iyakkam aided the Jayalalitha’s campaign. By locking hands with the winning party, DMDK bore sweeping victory and elbowed DMK to the third position by winning 29 of the 41 seats contested. (MDMK lead by Vaiko boycotted the 2011 elections as the seat sharing consensus did not work in its favor). Shooting from the sidelines, Vijayakanth landed himself squarely in the center as the Leader of the Opposition.
Apart from being a favorable collaboration, this victory was critical for his party. In Tamil Nadu politics, DMK and ADMK were the only parties (apart from national ones) that gained recognition from the Election commission. PMK won only 3 of the 30 contested seats with a 5.23 vote share. (If it had received close to 6% vote share it could have retained the recognition.) DMDK won 29 of the 41 seats contested with a vote share of 7.88%. By fulfilling various other demands of the Election commission, DMDK gained state recognition for its party with a bang.
But victory did not slacken this actor-turned-politician and his battle lines protracted. In the 2013 Delhi elections, DMDK nominated 11 candidates and polled 2300 votes. GS Mani (former Supreme Court lawyer) brazenly ran against Arvind Kejriwal stupefying Tamilians world over.
As the 2014 elections near, DMDK is courted ferociously by BJP and DMK. An alleged controversy surrounding DMK chieftain’s son Alagiri seemed to have warded off its chances and cadres of DMDK appealed for an alliance free contest; Vijayakanth himself has picked BJP as its ally. DMDK also suffers from similar issues that plague most political parties in India. Its commander-in chief is accused of being hard headed and the decision making power allegedly resides solely with himself, his wife Premalatha and his brother in law Sudhish. While Vijayakanth has a steep climb to success, the coming elections will be his ticket to send that first elected representative to the Lok Sabha. It would also be his chance to court people without being flanked by the state bigwigs. Will success elude or elope him?