Desiya Murpoku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), founded by actor Vijayakanth, has had another disastrous outing in the recently concluded Tamil Nadu Assembly elections. On all the 60 seats it contested as part of the alliance with TTV Dhinakaran’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, the party drew a blank.
In most constituencies, the DMDK secured the fourth position, behind parties like Naam Tamizhar and Makkal Needhi Maiam. Party treasurer Premalatha Vijayakanth, who made her poll debut from Virudhachalam, was pushed to a distant third, securing 25,908 votes.
The DMDK was once a most sought-after party in Tamil Nadu, after the major players AIADMK and DMK. Its vote share of 0.43 per cent in the 2021 elections has now put it in a position where it could lose its status as a state-recognised party.
In the 2006 assembly election, just a year after Vijayakanth launched his party, he sent shock waves in Tamil Nadu by putting up an impressive show of securing a vote share of 8.4 per cent. The performance was considered one of the best by a debutant party, as it came when two tall leaders of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalithaa and M Karunanidhi, were in their prime.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Vijayakanth continued his policy to contest alone. Though they lost, the vote share of his party increased further to 10.3 per cent, making them the third biggest party in the state after AIADMK and DMK.
In 2011, Vijayakanth changed his stand and forged an alliance with AIADMK and contested in 41 assembly constituencies. He won 29 of them and became the leader of the opposition. The rise of the DMDK pushed the DMK to the third position in the assembly.
The fallout with AIADMK and the subsequent loss in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections paved the way for the current downfall of the party. In 2014, DMDK was part of the NDA alliance and suffered defeat in all the 14 constituencies it contested. Their vote share, which was 7.9 per cent in the previous election, slid to 5.1 per cent.
In the 2016 assembly election, DMDK formed a third front dubbed as ‘Makkal Nala Kootani’ under its leadership, comprising VCK, MDMK, Left parties, and Tamil Maanila Congress. The move proved to be a disaster as the coalition failed to win a single seat. The DMDK suffered defeat in all the 103 constituencies it contested, and its vote share came down to 2.39 per cent.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, when they were part of the AIADMK-led NDA alliance, they were allotted four seats. They lost all.
Due to his ill health, Vijayakanth is no longer able to actively participate in party meetings or campaigns. This has led to his wife Premalatha Vijayakanth and her brother LK Sudhish taking control of the party. Many of the senior functionaries have quit the party, seeking refuge in either the DMK or the AIADMK camps. According to sources, the reluctance of the new DMDK leadership to accept the ground reality and strategise accordingly has led to their downfall.
In 2021, after several rounds of negotiations, the DMDK failed to reach a seat-sharing agreement with the AIADMK. The AIADMK was ready to offer them a maximum of 12 seats, but the party was not willing to settle for anything less than 20, as they wanted to be treated on par with the PMK, which was allotted 23 seats. When the DMKD parted ways with AIADMK, it burnt bridges, saying it would work for the defeat of the senior party in all the 234 constituencies.