Vijayakanth cracks down on dissidents. But that won't solve his problems
Filmstar turned politician Vijayakanth has expelled 10 top functionaries of his Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, including three MLAs, for revolting against his alliance with the 4-party People's Welfare Front.
This comes after the dissident leaders, led by party whip and propaganda secretary VC Chandrakumar, said that the alliance is a recipe for disaster and that Vijayakanth should reconsider joining the DMK-led front.
Vijayakanth is reportedly in Singapore for rest and recuperation ahead of the election campaign. He is the chief minister candidate for the People's Welfare Front.
Addressing reporters on Wednesday, Chandrakumar said that the decision to expel the 10 leaders was taken by Vijayakanth’s wife Premalatha who is now “calling the shots”.
He was accompanied by two other MLAs and district secretaries, Shekhar and Parthiban.
Man in the middle
Vijayakanth was assiduously wooed by both the BJP and the DMK before he joined the 4-party People’s Welfare Front comprising the Vaiko's Marumalarchi DMK, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi of Thol Thirumavalavan, CPI and CPM. All the constituents accepted his leadership.
Till then, he had maintained that he was not in engaging with either BJP or DMK. In fact, when BJP leader Prakash Javedakar flew down to Chennai for talks, Vijayakanth made himself scarce. And he also ignored DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi's invitation to join his alliance.
Vijayakanth's ultimate selling proposition was his projection as an alternative to the two kazhagams - the DMK and the AIADMK. On that plank he polled over 8% votes in the first election his party faced in 2006, 5 years after its formation. However, he was the only winner.
He improved upon his performance in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections by increasing his vote share to over 10%.
Falling out with Amma
In the 2011 Assembly election, he fell for the bait of AIADMK leader Jayalalitha. It helped him get 29 seats and made DMDK the second largest party in the Assembly. DMK was reduced to the third position and Vijayakanth became leader of the opposition.
However, Jayalalitha could not countenance Vijayakanth's opposition to her rule after he had won the elections with her support.
She is said to have engineered a split in the DMDK by luring 8 MLAs to her fold unofficially. They functioned as a pro-AIADMK ginger group. Vijayakanth did not expel them as they would thereby save their seats under the anti-defection law and he would also lose his Leader of the Opposition status.
The only leader to resign his membership was his deputy and veteran leader Panruti Ramachandran. It was a telling commentary on Vijayakanth's autocratic style of functioning and lack of inner-party democracy. Apparently his wife Premalatha and brother-in-law Sudeesh act as power centres.
It was in this background that Vijayakanth called an executive meeting in Kancheepuram where he proclaimed on the basis of what he called "feedback from the cadres" that he would rather be king than a king-maker, thereby shutting the door on the BJP and the DMK.
The only option left was the four-party front which was not only ready to accept his leadership but even rename the front as Vijayakanth alliance. They offered 124 seats to him and agreed to share the remaining 100 among themselves.
The DMK-led front is calling the new grouping as a B team of AIADMK, that is splitting the opposition vote.
The belated rebellion is seen as the DMK way of striking back.
Chandrakumar and other rebels claim that they pitched for an alliance with DMK and Vijayakanth agreed to consider the option, but ultimately Premalatha's will prevailed.
Wife's grudge against DMK
There is some truth in the charge because Premalatha is said to harbour a grudge against DMK for the demolition of her husband's marriage hall. In fact, that was the immediate provocation which prompted Vijayakanth to launch his own political outfit.
Premalatha was also not ready to forgive the way the DMK belittled Vijayakanth in the 2011 elections by pitting Tamil film comedian Vadivelu against him. Much to the delight of the audience, Vadivelu quipped: “Vijayakanth being captain (of a ship), he will naturally be floating all the time”.
It is public knowledge that Vijayakanth is not known for his sobriety. He is also whimsical and short-tempered.
Pattali Makkal Katchi leader and CM aspirant Anbumani Ramadoss has said, “Vijayakanth has gone missing ever since he was declared CM candidate of the PWF. The front itself is full of contradictions since Vijayakanth's entry. No one is talking about the common minimum programme which was agreed upon earlier”.
MDMK leader Vaiko, now Vijayakanth's ally, has said that Chandrakumar was enthusiastically taking part in public meetings organised by the alliance till 28 March. “The sudden dissidence of Chandrakumar and others could be the handiwork of the DMK”.
It is difficult to predict if the rebellion will harm the DMDK, a person-centric party in which everyone except Vijayakanth are non-entities.
A telling example is the way Jayalalitha made use of the earlier batch of dissidents.
They stayed true to her till the end. In fact, the day Vijayakanth announced that he would be the king, they all resigned their Assembly seats and an obliging Speaker promptly stripped him of the post of Leader of the Opposition. Not that it mattered as the term was set to end in two months. But it showed her mindset.
With the dissidents having served their purpose, she ruthlessly denied ticket to all but one. Panruti Ramachandran who resigned from his seat before joining the DMK, has been rewarded with a ticket.