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Vijayakanth: King or kingmaker?

By B Srikumar
March 24, 2016 01:36 IST
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How will DMDK’s decision to join the People’s Democratic Front affect the political scenario in TN, analyses B Srikumar.

From left, MDMK chief Vaiko, VCK Leader Thol Thirumavalavan and representatives of the Left parties greet DMDK chief Vijayakanth, centre, after an agreement on seat sharing for the assembly polls, in Chennai on Wednesday. Photograph: PTI Photo

The multi-cornered contest in Tamil Nadu has made the upcoming elections more interesting. Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam chief Vijayakanth-led alliance of fringe parties is expected to give a tough fight to both the major parties of the state -- Jayalalithaa’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Karunanidhi’s Drvida Munnetra Kazhagam.

In a volte-face, the DMDK chief announced on Wednesday that he is joining hands with the People’s Welfare Front, which comprises four parties: Vaiko's Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Communist Party of India and Thol Thirumavalavan's Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi. Vaiko said the alliance will work hard to make Vijayakanth the ‘king’ in this tough contest.

Actor-turned-politician Viajaykanth, who had earlier announced that his party will contest alone, is going to lead the alliance as its chief ministerial candidate. The DMDK will contest in 124 seats and the rest of its allies will share 110 seats among them. 

An alliance of the fringe parties has come as a surprise this time as usually, these parties back on the AIADMK or the DMK for their success in polls. This time, however, except the Congress, no other party has struck an alliance with any of these two Dravidian parties.

In the recent political history of Tamil Nadu, people have never given a chance to the Third Front. Even in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the AIADMK won 37 out of 39 seats.

All its former (the MDMK) and current allies at the Centre (the DMDK and the Pattali Makkal Katchi) have dumped the Bharatiya Janata Party and there seems to be no potential allies for it.

Since 1967, either of the two Dravidian parties has been ruling the state. The fringe parties used to wait at the doorstep of the AIADMK and the DMK to get seats. Now, a new front is shaping up and projecting itself as an alternative to both.

However, DMK leader T K S Elangovan says, “The DMK is the only alternative to AIADMK. The Vijaykanth-led front will not work out. They may get a little percentage of the total votes, but will not bring any major change.”

Expressing similar views, Tamil Nadu BJP president Tamilsai Soundararajan says, “The People’s Welfare Front would not make any impact in the election. Vijayakanth has committed a blunder in his political career by joining it.”

The DMDK-led front is going to face many challenges in the next few weeks in the battle against the mighty AIADMK and DMK. Political analyst Gnani Sankaran says, “They would not capture the power overnight, but they should make consistent efforts to prove that they are an alternative. Also, Vijaykanth’s delay in announcing the alliance, even after his earlier declaration of going it alone, might make him less credible. First, he was having talks with many parties and then he announced that he would contest alone, now joining hands with People’s Welfare Front will not work.”

As far as the vote share is concerned, the two major players -- the AIADMK and the DMK -- will get 60 per cent of votes and the Vijayakanth-led alliance will get about 13-15 per cent votes.

The first-timers and non-partisan voters will play a crucial role in deciding as to who captures power in Tamil Nadu.

Taking into account the present political scene in the state, the AIADMK doesn’t have any strong allies and it holds on the charisma of party supremo Jayalalithaa. On the other side, the DMK has only the Congress and the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi in its fold.

AIADMK workers are hoping that Amma’s welfare works will fetch votes for the party and it will form the government once again on its own. Party leader C R Saraswathy says, “The vote bank of the AIADMK is intact. Amma’s welfare works in her five-year rule have been recognised by the people of the state. We had already proved ourselves in the recent Lok Sabha polls by winning 37 seats. Our alliance is always with the people and they will give us another chance to rule the state. We are not bothered about the Vijaykanth-led front. He got recognition only after contesting the last assembly polls with the AIADMK.”

For the first time, it is being said that both the AIADMK supremo and the DMK chief are unlikely to conduct a large number of road-shows and rallies due to health issues. It is to be seen how much this situation benefits the PWF.

There are no star campaigners in the AIADMK except Jayalalithaa. In DMK too, only a few influential faces are there apart from Karunanidhi. Till a few days ago, Karunanidhi was very keen to get the DMDK with the DMK but it did not work out. Party treasurer M K Stalin, however, categorically stated that no alliance talks with the DMDK were going on. This exposes the state of affairs within the party.

Usually, the anti-incumbency factor works against the ruling party. Therefore, Jayalalithaa is very careful about the selection of candidates and mostly preferring fresh faces. The DMK, on the other hand, is planning to attract the youth, and, in this pursuit, party veterans might be sidelined.

The PMK, which has Dr Anbumani Ramadoss as its CM candidate, has a sizable vote bank in the northern belt. It will contest the elections alone and will field 234 candidates.

Speculations about G K Vasan’s Tamil Maanila Congress joining hands with the AIADMK are also rife. However, Vasan is yet to announce his party’s position.

Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi and other fringe parties are now thinking of joining the PWF. Hence, a clear picture of the political realignments in the state is yet to emerge.

While all the parties are working out their strategy, voters are waiting to see the emerging political trend in Tamil Nadu. It has also been learnt based on social media posts and trends that many young voters are not happy with either of the two Dravidian-majors and are looking for a new alternative. It will be interesting to see whether the PWF succeeds in becoming that alternative.

We are yet to see how the alliance arithmetic works out in the coming days. But one thing is sure that the first-time voters are holding the key in this poll. And, in their bid to find an alternative of the DMK and the AIADMK, they will make Vijayakanth either the ‘king’ or ‘kingmaker’.

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B Srikumar
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