Desiya Murpoku Dravidar Kazhagam (DMDK) leader Vijaykanth’s current state of affairs is similar to the captain of the ship that ran aground here due to Cyclone Nilam. Many sailors of the ship were drowned due to the ill advice of their captain. Vijaykanth’s party members are somewhat facing a similar situation, thanks to the bad captaincy of their captain. Coincidentally, Vijaykanth is referred to as Captain by his fans and party members.
It started with two sitting MLAs of DMDK calling on the Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa, at the Secretariat on October 26 and seeking help for their constituencies. Since one of the MLAs, R Sundarrajan, representing Madurai Central constituency, was the party treasurer and close friend of Vijaykanth, (the other one, K Tamil Azhagan represents Titakudi), curious reporters sought the Captain’s reaction at the airport as he was on his way to Madurai the next morning.
But without giving a reply to the reporters, the ‘Captain’ spoke rudely and another MLA, Anagai Murgesan, in his entourage even pushed away a veteran reporter, causing his fall on the ground. Even as the unsavoury incident was unfolding at the airport, two more DMDK MLAs, C Arun Pandian (Peruvaranai) and Micheal Royappan (Radhapuram), were on their way to meet the chief minister with the same demands.
Though the assault on the reporter caused an uproar in media circles, the Captain remained unrepentant and only said elsewhere that the meeting of MLAs was a ‘drama’. However, two days later, when the Assembly met, while Vijaykanth skipped the session, five of his MLAs met the Speaker, P Dhanapal, at his chamber and sought an appointment with the chief minister and said that they would be led by Captain in the meeting, prompting one of the four MLAs who had met the chief minister earlier, to ask if Captain was enacting a ‘deceitful drama’ if their meeting was a ‘drama’. The next day a few other MLAs too approached the chief minister’s office for an appointment. When officials refused to accept their letter, they spoke to the media and dispersed.
All these ‘attempts to meet the chief minister’ led to the raising of four privilege issues in the Assembly on October 31 and November 1 against a total of 11 MLAs. In the meantime, police registered a case against Vijaykanth and Anagai Murugesan for the assault on the reporter at the airport.
The chain of events, however, gave rise to a question: What is happening inside the DMDK? Vijaykanth floated the party in 2005 as an alternative to all political parties in Tamil Nadu but contested the 2011 elections as an ally of the AIADMK and won 29 seats in the 234 Assembly to become the principal opposition party.
Since most of the DMDK MLAs were unknown persons, the general perception has been that they would not be ambitious and be loyal and grateful to Captain. In fact, all of them were, but widespread resentment set in among the party functionaries less and than a year ago.
A functionary said that most cadre have lost faith in the Captain and his leadership abilities. Some of the reasons cited by partymen were Vijaykanth’s inability to utilise the party’s strength in the House and develop its base all over the state, his autocratic behaviour in running the affairs of his party, his total dependence on his wife, Premalatha, who accompanies him everywhere, and his brother-in-law.
But, a little prodding, brought out more startling facts. It is Vijaykanth’s penchant to use foul language and fly into a rage at the drop of the hat that has put off many people in the party. When some senior leaders of the party like Jagaveerapandian and child-hood friend Ibrahim Rowthar parted way with Vijaykanth, the message was loud and clear that the success of his party had gone to Captain’s head.
Though it is evident that disillusionment has set in at all levels of the party structure, the Captain is blissfully oblivious of the fact that he is steering a sinking ship. For, as a cadre put it, “does he get our feedback now?”