‘Captain was second only to MGR, challenged TN’s two-party system’: Ex Min K Pandia Rajan

The decision to start Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) was a calculated risk that Captain Vijayakant took as it emerged as the third alternative to DMK and AIADMK, but it couldn’t recover from its downfall due to Captain’s ill-health, says Ma Foi.
Actor turned politician, Vijayakant
Actor turned politician, Vijayakant
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Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) founder, Captain Vijayakant, who passed away on Thursday December 28, was compared with MG Ramachandran, the founder of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) by a senior leader of the rival party. Speaking to TNM, senior AIADMK leader K Pandiarajan, better known as ‘Ma Foi’ Pandiarajan after the company he founded, said, “After Puratchi Thalaivar (Revolutionary leader) MG Ramachandran, he has been the only leader from Tamil Nadu who used his fan base to help people, and eventually encouraged them to form booth committees to valourise the party.”

Padiarajan, who entered the TN assembly as a DMDK MLA in 2011 before switching to the AIADMK, recalled that Vijayakant’s social activism shaped his politics and laid the foundation for his party. “The decision to start DMDK in 2005 was certainly a gamble but it proved favourable to Captain Vijayakant only because of his social activism. He began working for the welfare of people 15 years before he entered politics,” he said

Vijayakant, who passed away at the age of 71 after suffering from prolonged pulmonary illnesses, also tested positive for COVID-19 on December 26, and was placed on ventilator support. He was last spotted in public on December 18 when he chaired the DMDK’s 18th executive and general council meeting held at a private hall in Thiruverkadu. With his health failing, the party’s baton was handed over to his wife Premalatha who was elected as the party’s General Secretary.

Analysing the party’s future, Pandiarajan said that DMDK’s fate will now completely depend on Premalatha Vijayakant’s decisions regarding alliances and her ability to bring together the party’s cadres. He reminiscenced how the party once posed a serious challenge to Tamil Nadu’s two-party system and emerged as an opposition party within the first six years of its existence. 

According to the former minister, Vijayakant accomplished what other parties, apart from the DMK and the AIADMK, couldn’t accomplish in their electoral debut. “In 2006, DMDK cut into the vote share of the two major parties in Tamil Nadu and emerged as a third alternative party with 8.3% vote share,” Ma Foi said and added that it proved that the formation of DMDK was in fact, a calculated risk by late leader Vijayakant. 

That win boosted the party’s growth and encouraged people to join the party as cadres. “It was that victory and Captain’s goodwill that encouraged me to join the party,” Ma Foi told TNM. In 2011, when DMDK won more seats than the DMK and formed the opposition for AIADMK, Ma Foi stood from Virudhunagar constituency and emerged victorious. However, after this term, the party faced a downfall.

In Ma Foi’s opinion, the downfall began when Vijayakant opposed late AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa. It was in 2013 that Ma Foi along with nine other DMDK MLAs switched their loyalties to AIADMK. DMDK eventually lost its grip in Tamil Nadu, especially after Jayalalithaa retained power once again in 2016. But he believes that Vijayakant could have navigated this fall if it weren’t for his ill-health. 

In December 2017,  Vijayakant’s health deteriorated and he had to travel to Singapore for treatment. Later, in 2020, his diabetic condition had caused irregular blood flow to his right leg, requiring three of the toes to be surgically removed. In the same year, he was hospitalised for COVID-19 and then again in May 2021 briefly, until the infection once again worsened his condition, leading to his death on December 27.

“All of us who knew him, know that he has never let anyone who came to him seeking help, leave empty handed. That is how he will be remembered,” Pandiarajan said. 

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