Chennai: With his son’s movie debut proving to be a disaster, actor-turned-neta Vijayakant broke his long hiatus to revive his political fortunes. But, rather than redeeming his party’s sagging morale and his own waning popularity, the DMDK chief has only managed to rock the alliance boat after potential allies enthusiastically boarded his vessel, leaving the current partner, the BJP, guessing.
Early April, the movie Sagaptham (Era), featuring his younger son Shanmugha Pandian in the lead, was released only to vanish from the screens within days as even diehard Vijayakant fans too turned their back on it. Despite the diktat to party functionaries to ensure a smooth sailing, the film could not last even for a week. The last movie for the DMDK leader himself was Virudhagiri in 2010, a flop at the box office. And, April remained a cruelest month as nothing was there for him to galvanise the party.
For long, the DMDK leader, also the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, was never in the thick of action, not even when his party legislators were suspended by the Speaker. As such, he was drawing flak from all quarters. Waking up, he stumbled upon the idea of forging unity of purpose among the opposition and led a delegation to the prime minister on Monday last. The DMK, spurned by the Marxists, gleefully joined the bandwagon and so were the Congress and other parties.
However, his much hyped foray into the national capital came a cropper and was nothing more than a storm in a tea cup. The euphoria among the Opposition in the state, which hoped for a grand alliance against Jayalalithaa in the 2016 assembly poll, soon evaporated into thin air. But for Vijayakant, ‘captain’ to his fans, none could be blamed for this. Beginning with his unsavoury conduct at the media interaction to having private meetings with the Prime Minister and senior BJP ministers, he has left other parties red-faced, making them wonder as to whether they have been taken for a ride. For, they have joined him within a short notice.
On last Sunday, the reticent actor-turned-politician took the political establishment by surprise as he opened communication channels with every opposition leader while keeping his feet firmly in the saffron alliance. His first port of call was Gopalapuram to meet the ageing Dravidian warhorse, desperately wooing the actor to form a ‘mahajot’ to take on the formiddable ‘Amma’. Though Karunanidhi had presided over Vijaykant’s marriage in 1990, this was his first meeting with the patriarch after launching the DMDK in 2006. An elated Karunanidhi said he was ready to work with DMDK on people’s issues. For his part, the ‘captian’ said: “I met Karunanidhi first as he is a senior leader and Kalaignar had assured to work with the DMDK on issues concerning the poor.” Without wasting time, the DMK announced that its Rajya Sabha floor leader ‘Tiruchy’ N Siva and MP Kanimozhi would accompany the DMDK leader.
Then, he called on MDMK leader Vaiko, Tamil Maanila Congress leader GK Vasan, TNCC president EVKS Elangovan and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Thol Thirumavlavan, besides contacting Left leaders who were away in some parts of Tamil Nadu.
No wonder, this triggered talks of a grand alliance against the AIADMK and speculations were further fueled by Karunanidhi saying, “Considering the situation in Tamil Nadu, an opposition alliance is required to save the state”.
But, all the optimism turned into despair the very next day, when the press meet of Vijayakant with opposition leaders ended in a PR disaster. It hogged the limelight for all the wrong reasons as he walked out after fuming and bad-mouthing at a reporter of Jaya TV. If this was not enough, further shock was in store after the delegation had left the national capital. Accompanied by his wife and brother-in-law, he had a private audience with the Prime Minister and later with BJP ministers, fueling suspicions that he had a personal agenda in the guise of leading the delegation and that it was nothing but a bargaining chip with the BJP leadership to concede his demand of being the chief ministerial nominee of the saffron combine.
Unable to stomach Vijayakant taking it for a ride, the DMK tried hard to hide its disappointment. “Vijayakant should have returned with other leaders. Instead, he turned his visit into a private one, meeting the PM and other leaders separately, leading to serious doubts that he has used this as a show of strength to bargain with the BJP. Whether true or not, he should have avoided such a situation,” was the plainspeak of a senior DMK functionary.
Echoing the same, a Congress leader said: “What he and his family members spoke with the prime minister is not known. Even to discuss issues pertaining to NDA in the state, it would have been prudent for him to have done it on another occasion. Why such a secrecy is the question.”
“By hindsight, we have been proved right,’ quipped a leader of a Muslim outfit, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, which declined to be part of the delegation.
Yet, the DMDK puts up a brave face despite having ruffled the feathers. “This move has unwittingly proved Captain’s acceptance among other leaders and none will hesitate to join hands with him.” Well, it is not that easy to mend fences, especially in politics and when realisation dawns upon him it might be too late.