The emperor without clothes: The apparent rise and embarrassing fall of Vijayakant

The emperor without clothes: The apparent rise and embarrassing fall of Vijayakant
The emperor without clothes: The apparent rise and embarrassing fall of Vijayakant
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In forfeiting his security deposit, Vijayakant has also fallen off the pedestal of a possible future Chief Minister of the state.

Well the pedestal was largely illusory, but like the ‘king’ who proudly went about in the non-existent robe ‘woven’ by the conmen weavers, the DMDK leader too seemed to revel in just being a Chief Ministerial candidate for the last couple of months.

The child calls out the naked king in the fable, and in our day, voters have called out the foolish Captain – so he has come down crashing.

The DMDK’s vote-share is hardly 2.4%. Even in the northern districts where it is supposed to have a strong base, the party has done very badly, trailing far behind the winning candidates, in the third or fourth place. At the time of writing, nowhere has it been even a respectable second.

Not only that, not one of his own party candidates has won, and the ‘grand alliance’ too drew a blank. There cannot be a more humiliating show for those leaders who were strutting around as a major challenge to the two major Dravidian parties.

And it is all his fault, and nobody else’s. When he appeared on the political horizon in 2005, there was some euphoria. Those disillusioned with the DMK and the AIADMK could plump for him, it was put out.

Maybe if he had played his cards well, he would have emerged a credible leader. But keeping off polls for no convincing reason or going it alone when it was suicidal to do so, he steadily went down the hill.

Finally in 2011, after a lot of hemming and hawing, he joined hands with the AIADMK and his party won 29 seats to emerge the major opposition party, pushing even the DMK to the third place - its tally was only 23.

But soon his relationship with his erstwhile ally deteriorated, and he began attacking her inside and outside the legislature. It is true the AIADMK supremo did see in him a threat to her own position and sought to put him down at every possible opportunity. But instead of playing it cool, ignoring the slights and building up his party, he walked blithely into the trap, as it were.

Jayalalithaa didn’t need any further excuse to wreck his party and began to win over dissenters. Quite a few crossed over, and they did so because Vijayakant treated them with all too evident contempt.

If in public he could slap his aides or knock on their heads with his mike, in party consultations too, the leader kept issuing dire warnings of the worst if anyone failed to obey his diktats.

On one such occasion a respectable MLA, Ma Foi Pandiarajan, a noted management consultant, was rudely asked to get out as he turned up a few minutes late. He moved over to the AIADMK, and he has now won from a Chennai constituency. Yet another, a close associate from Madurai, was humiliated no end for reasons not clear, and he too defected.

Vijayakant had erected an almost iron wall around him, and no one had access to him except through his brother-in-law Sudeesh. Of course, his wife Premalatha became the virtual second-in-command and all leaders and cadres were made to pay obeisance to the duo all the time. Their hold became stronger even as Captain’s own health took a beating.

It was in such circumstances the assembly elections intervened, a golden opportunity for the DMDK to retrieve lost ground and make itself more relevant. The DMK, desperate to come back to power, kept enticing Vijayakant with all kinds of offers, and at some stage it looked like he might agree to join hands.

But it was not to be. MDMK’s Vaiko won him over, saying he could be the Chief Ministerial candidate if only he would become part of the third front. It is not clear whether he was swayed by wild imagination, by the very thought of resultant media glare or it was some other factor, but Vijayakant gave in.

He should have known that the third front would only wean away a considerable segment of anti-AIADMK votes and thus help Jayalalithaa come back to power. Also that Vaiko’s objective was possibly to stall his long time rival Stalin’s path to the throne. But he didn’t seem to care.

Worse, his public appearances became a source of endless merriment. As Dhanya Rajendran Vellore remarks, tongue in cheek, in a Facebook post, if only the captain had polled as many votes as the memes on him in the social network, it would have been more honourable.

Vaiko had done his bit of damage by opting out of the contest altogether on some flimsy pretext. The final entrant, the TMC, was a no-show right from the beginning.

Barring the energetic cadres of the Dalit outfit and the dedicated Left workers, there was little going for the front. The DMDK had attracted a lot of Vanniyar and Dalit cadres in the northern districts at its inception. But they all melted away, put off by Vijayakant’s unpredictable ways.

But my hunch is neither Vaiko nor Vijaykanth would regret the dismal performance. They would not have expected to win big anyway. But drawing a blank and loss of deposit should hurt the ego of the actor-turned-politician a lot.

But what will he do now? Only Premalatha and Sudeesh might know, if anyone does. The party could itself melt away sooner than later.

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