Even his interminable speeches are drawing ridicule in the social media like never before

The fallen fortunes of Vaiko From DMKs heir-apparent to leader without a constituency
news Politics Sunday, March 06, 2016 - 12:29

Vaiko, V Gopalasamy, founder of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) has almost become an anachronism in Tamil Nadu politics.

He is leading a four-party front – comprising the two left parties, the Vidudhalai Chiruthaikal Katchi (VCK, a party commanding a following essentially among one significant sect of Dalits, Pariars or Adi Dravidars), apart from the MDMK itself.  They all enjoy pockets of support, but are not expected to pull off more than a couple of wins, if they do win at all.

That sums up Vaiko’s present situation – a triton among the minnows perhaps, but nothing more. He enjoys a kind of charisma thanks to his oratorical power and relatively strident Tamil nationalism, but otherwise his value as a vote-catcher is almost zilch.

That is a dramatic fall for a man who was once considered a possible heir apparent of Karunanidhi in the DMK. And when he was thrown out of the party, it looked like it could prove a second traumatic split, evoking memories of the MGR drama two decades earlier.

A lawyer by profession and hailing from the southern districts, he rose fast in the DMK thanks essentially to his expansive gestures and orotund phrases, sprinkled with references to both classical Tamil literature and world history.

By the eighties he had emerged as the most popular DMK speaker, next only to party chief M Karunanidhi.  There were even occasions when the crowds would start dispersing after Vaiko’s thunder ceased, embarrassing the leaders on the dais.

By that time the DMK chief had started plotting the rise of his second son, Stalin. Naturally, Karunanidhi and his nephew and confidant Murasoli Maran viewed the Vaiko phenomenon with distaste, and they started putting him in place.

When the DMK entered the central government for the first time, under V P Singh, contrary to expectations, it was Maran who was made a central minister and Vaiko was kept out.

Vaiko had to swallow the insult and keep soldiering on.

The ethnic strife in neighbouring Sri Lanka was a godsend for him. As the state was engulfed by competitive Tamil nationalism, Vaiko emerged as the star of the show and also opened independent links with the Tamil Tigers.

At one stage, when the Indian army was battling it out with the Tigers, Vaiko made a secret journey for a rendezvous with LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, and it predictably became a sensation.  Karunanidhi was the Chief Minister then, and his protégé’s adventure, possibly undertaken without his knowledge, caused him huge embarrassment. He suspended Vaiko, but had to take it back in a little while – after all, the party was supposed to champion the cause of Tamils the world over.

With every move, the disciple was gaining in stature, within and outside the DMK, threatening to derail Karunanidhi’s and Murasoli Maran’s carefully crafted plans to anoint Stalin as the successor.

Then it was that Karunanidhi alleged in public that the former was hatching a conspiracy to eliminate him, with the help of the Tigers. The die was cast, but the cadres were agitated. As many as five party workers committed self-immolation, protesting moves to expel their icon.  Many district secretaries threw their weight behind him. But the uncle-nephew duo was firm, and Vaiko was thrown out.

He went on to float his own party, calling it the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, (DMK in Renaissance). DMK ranks left in droves to join the new party. It was 1994, when DMK’s own fortunes were at a low ebb, the party having been ousted from power, and with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi haunting it all the time.

On the other hand, Tamil nationalism, nurtured by the Dravidian movement, refused to fade away, and new heroes were in demand. Easily then, Vaiko was the man of the moment — many saw, in the massive rally the fledgling  party took out in the state capital, the beginning of the end of the DMK.

Strangely, the CPM rushed to embrace Vaiko, desperate to tap Tamil sentiments. But the alliance cut no ice in the 1996 polls, in which the DMK-TMC (Tamil Maanila Congress, a Congress splinter group) annihilated the Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK.

Thereafter, Vaiko sought to buttress his sagging fortunes by alternately aligning with either the AIADMK or the DMK – to remain electorally relevant, he could make peace even with Karunanidhi, though he would be excoriated day after day.

His arrest under the now defunct Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) by the Jaya regime in 2002 for supporting the LTTE, when he was an MP, sent his stocks soaring. Some even think it was a joint Jaya-Vaiko strategy to project him as the sole champion of the LTTE.

Whatever the case, barely five years later, he jumped onto the Jaya bandwagon on flimsy pretexts. It was felt that Vaiko crossed over to the AIADMK only to deny DMK victory and the possible Chief Ministership of Stalin. Well the DMK won, though Stalin didn’t become the Chief Minister.

Vaiko boycotted the 2011 Assembly elections altogether, again under some unconvincing pretext, and in 2016, he joined the BJP alliance — while he himself lost, one of his colleagues managed a narrow win.

This constant criss-crossing has terribly dented Vaiko’s image. Most of the senior DMK functionaries who had walked out with him have already found their way back to the DMK, while some drifted to the AIADMK.

It must also be noted here that Vaiko was perhaps among those who advised Velupillai Prabhakaran against surrender, holding out the hope of a BJP victory in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.  And they would help him achieve Eelam, the LTTE was told, thus paving the way for the carnage that followed.

Still youngsters swayed by Tamil nationalism do swear by him. That apart, there is no identifiable constituency for him, barring some sections among the upper caste Naickers and Reddiars – he is a Naicker himself.

Even his interminable speeches are drawing ridicule in the social media like never before.

Someone, who had been with him for long, remarked bitterly, “Frankly he is another Vijayakanth, making politics a good business proposition, only he articulates much better.  He is excited to no end by media attention and believes he is  tall politically as well and runs the party as his fiefdom, what with his son making most important decisions…I am afraid he has crashed into a blind alley of his own making, from which he can’t retrace… that’s sad.” 

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