The People’s Welfare Front, the ally of the DMDK, seems more rattled than Vijayakanth himself

Will the DMDK rebellion impact the Tamil Nadu polls Do the rebels matter
Voices TN 2016 Wednesday, April 06, 2016 - 13:22

On Tuesday, most Tamil TV channels went live with the press conference of the DMDK Assembly whip Chandrakumar, censuring his chief Vijayakanth on his decision not to join hands with the DMK. The Panama papers, which named a reputed industrial house based in Chennai seemed of lesser interest to the local media than the Chandrakumar revolt.

“Captain” Vijayakanth promptly expelled him and ten other functionaries, but more could be following suit, it is reported. Only a couple of days earlier a Chennai functionary had crossed over to the DMK.

The People’s Welfare Front, the ally of the DMDK, seems more rattled than Vijayakanth himself. They are worried the traction they had gained after the alliance was finalized could flag now.

Even earlier the Front’s meetings had reportedly been attracting good crowds across the state. When Vijayakanth too walked in, the leaders were buoyed up further. To add to their glee a survey had predicted a possible 25% share in the polls – never mind whether they can form a government or not, the very fact they come to be seen as a serious force is  a matter of great satisfaction to them.

They seem worried little that they could be splitting the anti-AIADMK votes and help Jayalalithaa coast back to power.

Precisely for the same reason, the DMK, shorn of any major ally barring the anaemic Congress, seems grinning even beyond ears, if it is possible that is! Forget whether the DMK engineered the revolt or not, they are hoping the division in the third front could boost their chances. The seeming humiliation of the TMC by the AIADMK too has raised many a hackle all round.

So then how momentous is the rebellion? Could this tilt the scales one way or another? No, unlikely.

In tightly-controlled parties occasional revolts are inevitable. The DMDK is virtually a fiefdom of its chief. It is his wife Premalatha and her brother Sudeesh who are calling all the shots, and no one dare raise a question.

There was a close associate of Vijayakanth and film producer Ibrahim Rowther who was thrown out peremptorily from the charmed circle soon after Vijayakanth’s marriage. Apparently an imperious and jealous Premalatha and Sudeesh would not like anyone to stand between them and the Captain, they seemed to view him as an interloper. When the DMDK was floated, Rowther was nowhere in the picture. His personal fortunes plummeted, and he died a miserable death.

The wife and brother-in-law duo fed into Vijayakanth’s ego like never before, and he began to think of himself as a sovereign few could challenge. He could choose to contest alone, keep away from the fray altogether, join hands with Jayalaltihaa or with the BJP or negotiate with the DMK, anything, anything he could make or unmake. Almost like King Canute.

Immediately after the formation of the party he slapped an enthusiastic follower in full view of the TV cameras, many were shocked. But it was only a beginning. Thereafter he was seen knocking on the heads of his senior aides during the campaign, ask MLAs to get out of inner party meetings and so on. The spitting at a reporter attracted nationwide attention recently.

But for all the media criticism, his halo, whatever there was, remained undiminished. Ironically the DMDK had come into being at a time when his film career was tapering off.

Never the greatest of actors or with any stunning charisma, still Vijayakanth made a lot of impact in ‘B’ grade regions, smaller towns and villages.

Barring in a rare film or two none got any inkling of his histrionic talents -  actually he had nothing but stunt sequences to recommend himself, but whatever on display  was apparently enough to excite the inert masses, starved of heroes in real life.

Indeed he was called black MGR. The blond variety won over his audience with carefully crafted scripts besides gestures of philanthropy and by associating himself with a popular political party.

But the black one could achieve an admirable measure of success almost effortlessly.

As a politician he was more an object of derision, still he could remain a leader of stature as the people had become disillusioned with major parties and there seemed no other viable option before them.

Thus on and off the screen Lady Luck seemed to smile on him constantly, though within limits, and he was content to make the most of it, his ambitions rarely vaulting. That is the story so far. There is no reason why the trend should change now.

When there is no one of any stature within the party anywhere near the leader’s, why would there be much of an eddy effect? Some functionaries could leave, frustrated over the coterie rule, that is about all.

Many might not know that the great MGR himself was faced with splits repeatedly, one very early, when he insisted that all members tattoo a picture of the party flag on their forearms. But after the initial flutter, things became normal.

Similarly, some leaders expelled by Jayalalithaa banded together to trigger what seemed a major split in the party, but it too petered out and most of the rebels thought it wiser to return home, tails between their legs, as it were.

On the other hand, whenever there was a split in the DMK, the party seemed to suffer badly.

Moral of the story: in one-man or one-woman parties, dissent can be crushed ruthlessly, but in cadre-based parties it could be a different story altogether.

The DMK then is celebrating prematurely over the happenings in the DMDK. Barring some embarrassment caused to Vijayakanth, there is nothing for Stalin (credited with engineering the split) to crow over. 


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