In a repeat of 2006, Captain Vijayakanth has yet again emerged as a significant factor in the Tamil Nadu elections. His party, the DMDK has decided to contest the polls along with the People’s Welfare Alliance (PWA) – an alliance of four parties including CPI(M), CPI, Vaiko’s MDMK and Thol Thirumavalavan’s Dalit party VCK.
If the PWA was floated with the clear objective of taking on the two Dravidian majors, DMK and the ruling AIADMK in this election, Vijayakanth has been keeping political parties and leaders guessing about his poll plans until two weeks ago when he announced that his party go it alone.
However, the latest development comes after talks between Vijayakanth’s and PWA leaders on Monday evening in which the PWA agreed to project Vijayakanth as the chief ministerial candidate during campaign.
The seat sharing talks have been completed. An official statement from Vijayakanth said the DMDK will contest 124 seats and the PWA the remaining 110. Political observers believe that the DMDK’s joining the third front would equally impact the prospects of both the AIADMK and DMK.
Since the DMDK’s formation in 2005 and its winning 8 per cent of the vote in 2006, Vijayakanth has been wooed by all regional and national parties in the state. In his first election, he was projected as an alternative to the DMK and the AIADMK and in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls his party got nearly 10 per cent of the vote share. His alliance with the AIADMK in the 2011 assembly election saw him win 29 seats.
Why has he changed his earlier plan to contest the assembly polls alone? Leaders say he chose to strike an alliance with PWA learning the lesson from 2014 Lok Sabha elections when he failed to win any seat in the NDA alliance and saw his vote share dip to 5 per cent.
A leader who modelled himself on AIADMK founder and former Chief Minister M G Ramachandran (MGR), Vijayakanth’s fans called him ‘Karuppu MGR’ (swarthy MGR) when he launched the party in 2005. With no ideology or experience in governance, ‘Karuppu MGR’ is still popular among both the rural and urban population, thanks to his image as an actor something that MGR had also enjoyed when he entered politics.
Ever since the 2006 assembly election — when his rallies attracted huge crowds, and his surprising 8 per cent vote share beat that of S Ramadoss’s PMK and Vaiko’s MDMK — he has been a worry for both the DMK and AIADMK.
Now that he has joined PWA, an alliance led by Vaiko, the third front will have greater significance as they expect their vote share to be anywhere in the vicinity of 18-20 per cent considering their existing vote shares and an anti-incumbency wave. More small parties including the Aam Admi Party (AAP), the Tamil National Front led by P Nedumaran and some Muslim parties are also expected to join the PWA now.
PWA leaders hope that with Vijayakanth on board they can consolidate votes from a cross section of voters. While VCK hopes to consolidate 21 per cent of the Dalit votes, both CPI(M) and CPI hope to revive their vote banks in central and southern Tamil Nadu.
Meanwhile, a senior AIADMK leader said Vijaykanth’s decision to join the PWA can only favour the ruling AIADMK. The DMK camp argues that the captain and his alliance will eat into the AIADMK votes as happened in 2006.