Vijaykanth to Battle Alone: Setback for DMK and BJP in Tamil Nadu

The fruit refused to fall into the milk, contrary to the recent rhetoric and expectations of major political parties.

Updated
Opinion
5 min read
Vijaykanth speaking at a rally. (Photo: The News Minute)

It’s official now – Vijaykanth will battle 2016 on his own. After months of suspense, Vijaykanth, also known as Captain, leader of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), the party with the second highest number of MLAs in Tamil Nadu in the last election, made this announcement at an event in Chennai on Thursday.

The media need not teach me about what I need to do. DMDK will contest alone.
Vijaykanth, DMDK leader

All Wooed Captain

This decision is being seen as a setback for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), both of which were wooing Vijaykanth into an alliance.

I welcome Vijaykanth’s announcement. He must remain steadfast in his decision to the end. I say this because a man who held detailed talks which went up to Union Minister Javadekar has suddenly flipped. There is a chance that he may go back on his decision again.
H Raja, National General Secretary of the BJP
The then BJP president Rajnath Singh, DMDK President Vijayakanth and
MDMK chief Vaiko in a 2014. (Photo: PTI)
The then BJP president Rajnath Singh, DMDK President Vijayakanth and MDMK chief Vaiko in a 2014. (Photo: PTI)

Raja scoffed at suggestions that this would be a setback to the BJP.

We are banking on the good work done by the Centre. We are ready to contest all 234 seats alone if required. Whoever wishes to join the NDA is welcome.
H Raja, National General Secretary, BJP

The DMK appears to be rather vexed with the entire alliance process. Insiders say that after positive signals from Vijaykanth, this decision came as a sudden U-turn.

The DMK is still watching. What Vijaykanth says to the DMK emissaries and what he says in public are two totally different things.
DMK source

The recently formed People’s Welfare Front (PWF) comprising Vaiko, Dalit leader Thol Thirumavalavan and the two Left parties have also been hoping to bring Captain onboard.

File photo of Vijayakanth meeting DMK Leader Karunanidhi and
his son Stalin.&nbsp;(Photo: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_A1SgtAomZk">YouTube</a>)
File photo of Vijayakanth meeting DMK Leader Karunanidhi and his son Stalin. (Photo: YouTube)
We had insisted publicly that Vijaykanth should come to the PWF. We already have a strong alliance in place. Vijaykanth’s decision will not affect us in any way.
R Mutharasan, State Secretary, Communist Party of India

A Long Wait for Captain

The wait for Vijaykanth has been long and taxing for both the DMK and the BJP. Frustration was writ large on the brows of Tamilisai Soundarrajan, President of the Tamil Nadu BJP on Wednesday night at a public meeting in Chennai.

Whether the fruit slides into the milk or under the foot, we are least bothered. We will certainly form an alliance and win this election. Even if there is no alliance, we have the courage to fight all 234 constituencies alone. We are not dependent on anybody.
Tamilisai Soundarrajan, President, Tamil Nadu BJP

She said this drawing a reference to tongue in cheek comment by DMK chief Karunanidhi, a day earlier.

On March 8, Karunanidhi made a cryptic comment to reporters at the party headquarters. “The fruit has slipped, now it just needs to fall into the milk,” he stated, hinting at alliance talks with Vijaykanth progressing well.

Vijaykanth (extreme left), Kamal Hassan (2nd from left), Rajnikanth (2nd from right) and Sathyaraj. (Photo: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/SuperstarRajni/photos/a.204713520597.142115.41272275597/10150233772690598/?type=3&amp;theater">Facebook</a>)
Vijaykanth (extreme left), Kamal Hassan (2nd from left), Rajnikanth (2nd from right) and Sathyaraj. (Photo: Facebook)

The BJP has been at its wits’ end in Tamil Nadu for the past few months. And the party is not alone in this frustration. The DMK too was getting antsy at the prolonged silence of this one man – Vijaykanth.

“Despite agreeing to most of his terms, including announcing him as the Chief Ministerial candidate, Vijaykanth’s silence was irritating us,” said a BJP leader who spoke on condition of anonymity. The reason:

Captain has been batting on three different fronts and bargaining hard with the DMK, the BJP as well as the People’s Welfare Front.

Why Hanker For Vijaykanth?

The DMDK’s record in the past two Assembly elections have been impressive. In its very first state election in 2006, the party contested alone, garnering 8.38% voteshare and winning a lone MLA seat for its leader Vijaykanth.

In 2011, the DMDK decided to align with Jayalalithaa’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), emerging as the second largest party and the main Opposition party in the state.

Vijaykanth’s party won 29 seats, although voteshare slid to 7.9%. In an election which is likely to come down to narrow winning margins, Vijaykanth’s voteshare is seen as being crucial to the victor.  

But problems remain. The DMDK cadre is reportedly keen on allying with the DMK in 2016, since they feel there is a better chance of a good performance in the state. “This announcement will bring joy and enthusiasm to the cadre,” said a leader of the DMDK who did not wish to be named. “But we are not sure whether this decision will change in the future,” he said.

Political Realignment

A tectonic shift is now expected in 2016, as a weakened DMK hopes to take on the might of the ruling AIADMK with only the Congress in tow. The AIADMK, which swept the 2011 Assembly polls with 38.4% voteshare, is likely to be laughing all the way to polls, with Vijaykanth’s decision.

The DMK, which cobbled up a voteshare of 22.39% in 2011, is going to have to battle very hard to better that figure. The Congress, weakened by the exit of former Union Minister GK Vasan, is also likely to see a slip in voteshare from 9.3% in 2011 state polls.

Like last elections, Vijaykanth and his party are in demand this time too. (Photo: PTI)
Like last elections, Vijaykanth and his party are in demand this time too. (Photo: PTI)

For Vijaykanth himself, 2016 will be a test of his true standing with the electorate after 2009 Lok Sabha polls, which was the last election he battled alone. In 2009, his party picked up 10.3% voteshare. Most political hawks though predict that the DMDK’s voteshare is likely to slide to half that figure.

On February 20, Captain, at a public rally in Kanchipuram, asked his cadre – “Do you want to be a king or a kingmaker?” The cadre roared back – “King”. Vijaykanth, for now, appears to have set his sights on a long term political strategy of being the only credible alternative to the Dravidian majors in the state.

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