Will the Captain upset the cart in multi-cornered fight?

N Ramakrishnan Chennai | Updated on January 20, 2018


Not going either with the AIADMK or the DMK can prove a challenge for the leader

At a recent public meeting in Kancheepuram, Vijayakant reportedly asked the gathering what they wanted him to be — king or kingmaker. And, the loud chorus from his supporters was “King”.

This might have prompted Captain, by which moniker Vijayakant was known in the film industry, to go it alone in the Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu, scheduled for May 16.

The DMDK announced just about a fortnight back that it would contest the elections on its own, spurning the overtures of the BJP-led NDA, of which he was a part in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and the DMK-led front.

Apparently, Vijayakant recently held discussions with his party MLAs on what the strategy should be and they unanimously told him that the party should align with the DMK; else, they warned him, their prospects were bleak.

Today, Vijayakant joined the People’s Welfare Front, consisting of Vaiko’s MDMK, the two Communist parties and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal, with Vaiko even announcing that the Captain would lead the alliance and is its chief ministerial candidate.

Various allies

What is it that makes Captain so important for the Dravidian parties? In the 2011 Assembly elections, the DMDK was part of the AIADMK front and won 29 of the 41 seats it contested, bagging more seats than even the DMK. But, shortly after, the DMDK fell out with the AIADMK and a few of its MLAs even openly supported Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. Some of them have since joined the AIADMK.

In the last elections, the DMDK got nearly 8 per cent of the votes polled, which was one of the factors for the swing in favour of the AIADMK combine.

Major gamble

In the May elections, DMDK will contest 124 seats and Vaiko’s MDMK, the two Left parties and VCK will share the remaining 110 among them.

Is this a major gamble for the 63-year-old Captain? Appears so, especially in a multi-cornered contest — the AIADMK is in talks with a handful of smaller parties; the DMK and the Congress (I) are together; the PMK is on its own projecting Anbumani Ramadoss as its chief minister candidate; and the BJP, which realistically has not much of a chance, is also in the fray. Vijayakant is up against two formidable opponents — the ruling AIADMK and the DMK, both of which have well-oiled machinery and a committed cadre.

Whether there will be a transfer of votes this time around, as it happened in the last election, will be known only after the results are out.

If it is a major achievement for Vijayakant, for Vaiko, once a stormy petrel of Tamil Nadu politics, this must be something of a climb down. For him to take the back seat and announce Vijayakant as the leader of the alliance is certainly a setback.

Climbdown for Vaiko

When Vaiko broke away from the DMK and formed his party in 1993, severing a long relationship with the party and its president M Karunanidhi, many expected him to be a major force in State politics.

That expectation has been belied and Vaiko must have reconciled himself to the fact that he will not be in a position to stake his claim for chief ministership.

Published on March 23, 2016

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