Actor Vijay has announced his entry into politics by announcing his party’s name, Tamilaga Vetri Kazhagam. The announcement comes after functionaries from actor Vijay’s fan association, Thalapathy Vijay Makkal Iyakkam (TVMI), were in New Delhi for a meeting with Election Commission (ECI) officials to initiate the process of formally registering his political party. The meeting was attended by TVMI general secretary Bussy Anand and the fan association’s legal team.
In a statement released on Friday, February 2, Vijay said, “You are all aware of the current political climate. There is administrative malpractice and corruption on one hand, and divisive politics, that strives to divide people on the basis of caste and religion on the other hand. Tamil Nadu is yearning for a political change that can lead to a selfless, transparent, caste-free, visionary and corruption free administration.”
The move comes after years of speculation about whether the actor would enter politics amid many cryptic statements from him. According to sources, TVMI members have been asked to offer prayers at temples, mosques, and churches. Further, sources also told TNM that Vijay is set to meet the TVMI district secretaries on February 4.
TVMI has so far been functioning almost like a de facto party. They contested in rural local body polls in 2021 across nine newly reconstituted districts and won 115 out of the 169 seats that they contested in. The polls were held in Chengalpattu, Kallakurichi, Ranipet, Villupuram, Vellore, Kancheepuram, Tenkasi, Tirunelveli, and Tirupattur. However, candidates from TVMI who stood in urban body polls the following year did not perform well. The fan association has consistently carried out social service such as organising food for school children or taking part in relief efforts during disasters in the state. In December last year, the fan association distributed aid material to people hit by the floods in Tirunelveli district.
In 2021, Vijay and his father and director SA Chandrasekar had a very public tussle leading to the end of the political association Vijay Makkal Iyakkam (VMI). The association had been registered by Chandrasekar under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act in June 2020. At the time, Chandrasekar had claimed that he was only following the wishes of his Vijay’s fans. Vijay initially distanced himself from VMI and then went on to file a case against Chandrasekar and his mother Shoba Sekar after which the association was dissolved in 2021. Interestingly, Chandrasekar gave a public speech earlier this week, making several comments about his son’s career and choice of films.
Vijay’s cryptic statements regarding his political entry increased in 2023. In July, the actor said that he would “quit acting if he entered politics”. The same month, TVMI held a conference for students who had passed Classes 10 and 12 which was presided over by Vijay. At the conference, where he distributed cash prices of Rs 5,000 to toppers, he made his displeasure with existing parties very clear. He also encouraged students to read the works of DR BR Ambedkar, Dravidian leader and rationalist Periyar, and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Kamarajar who had been part of the Congress. At the time, TNM had also learnt from sources that TVMI members had been tasked with forming booth committees and that Vijay was in talks with political strategists.
Again, in November last year, while speaking at a success meet for his film Leo, Vijay had pointed out that his popular epithet ‘Thalapathy’ means Commander. He went on to say that the ‘people are kings’ and it was the ‘duty of the Commander to carry out the king’s wishes’.
Leo ran into trouble even before its release when the hit single ‘Naan Ready’ sung and performed by Vijay himself dropped in June 2023. A police complaint was filed against the actor because he was seen smoking in some of the dance sequences. The song itself was seen as a possible hint towards his political entry. This was also not the first time that the actor faced criticism for smoking on screen, nor is he the only Kollywood actor to be criticised.
In 2018, before the release of his film Sarkar, posters of Vijay’s character smoking invited the ire of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), who are in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Tamil Nadu. The PMK had in 2002 mobilised so much support against Rajinikant for smoking in Baba that released at that time that theatres in Madurai came under attack.
Vijay has also clashed in the past with the BJP, with the party targeting his Christian identity. A dialogue in his 2017 film Mersal, where the character played by the actor could be seen criticising GST and demonetisation, kicked up a political row. Leaders from the BJP criticised the actor for portraying the policies introduced by the Union government in a negative light. BJP National Secretary H Raja said that it was because Vijay hated Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he was a Christian. Vijay, who has almost never used his full name before in public, issued a statement with the name ‘Joseph Vijay’ on the letterhead to celebrate the success of the film.
In 2018, Sarkar upset the AIADMK government as it criticised the election freebie culture in Tamil Nadu. The film was perceived as an attack on the AIADMK and the controversial dialogues were removed. However, the fans of the actor took the issue to the public by pointing out the electronic appliances that were distributed during the AIADMK governments led by J Jayalalithaa.
BJP cadre staged a protest against the shooting of Vijay’s 2020 flick Master at the Neyveli Lignite Corporation in Cuddalore district stating that he should not shoot his film in a “protected mining zone” despite the crew getting permission from the Union government. The Income Tax Department, a day before the BJP protest, took the actor to Chennai for questioning the details of the salary from his 2019 film Bigil and the investments that he made into immovable properties.
In 2021, Vijay moved the Madras High Court stating that an “extraordinary entry tax has been imposed” on his Rolls Royce Ghost, imported from England in 2012. Hearing the case, Justice SM Subramaniam had dubbed Vijay’s petition challenging the entry tax as “anti-national habit” and told him to pay Rs 1 lakh to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister's Covid-19 Public Relief Fund, in addition to the tax amount. Later, a High Court bench of Justice Pushpa Satyanarayana and Justice Mohammad Shafiq expunged the remarks made by Justice SM Subramaniam on an appeal filed by the actor.
In another controversy related to a BMW car that he imported from the US in 2005, the Madras High Court granted him relief and directed him to pay the penalty for delayed payment of entry tax from January 29, 2019 to December 2021 and not since 2005.