“Pazham kanindhu paalil vizhum” (The fruit has ripened and will fall into the milk), said nonagenarian politician M Karunanidhi, leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) last month. He was referring to progress in alliance talks with Vijayakanth, 'Captain' to his cadre, leader of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) — the third largest party by vote-share in Tamil Nadu.
Vijayakanth, having kept the DMK, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Vaiko-led PWF (People’s Welfare Front) guessing for months, finally announced his plan to battle the polls on his own. A week later, he did a volte face, signing an alliance deal with the PWF, comprising Vaiko of the MDMK (Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam), both Left parties and Dalit leader Thol Thirumavalavan’s VCK (Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi).
Vijayakanth’s wife Premalatha mocked Karunanidhi on stage at a rally – “Pazham nazhuvi thenil vizhundhu vittadhu” (The fruit ripened and fell into honey), she stated.
The fall of the fruit into the honey though, appears to have spattered its surroundings.
On Tuesday, three MLAs and 10 district secretaries of Vijayakanth’s DMDK addressed reporters in Chennai. “We are pleading with Captain to rethink his decision,” announced VC Chandrakumar, propaganda secretary of the DMDK and an MLA. “This alliance (with the PWF) is not an alliance that will defeat Jayalalithaa. Ninety-five percent of the DMDK cadre want to ally with the DMK. This is a suicidal decision by Captain,” he stated, clarifying that none of those with him intended to quit the party.
Within an hour though, all of these men found themselves expelled from the party through a statement issued by their leader Vijayakanth.
This is not the first display of resentment against the decision to go with the PWF.
Kanyakumari and North Chennai district secretaries of the DMDK jumped fence to join the DMK last week. Vijayakanth promptly announced replacements. Ally Vaiko told reporters that this was “a ploy by the DMK to break the DMDK party”.
Show Me The Money!
The reason behind this sudden mutiny in Captain’s ranks, according to insiders, is a banal one.
A DMDK leader explained the logic to Firstpost on condition of anonymity. “We formed an alliance with the AIADMK (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) in 2011 and won the election,” explained the insider. “Within a few months, relations between J Jayalalithaa and Captain soured. We became the main Opposition. Despite having 29 MLAs, we could not make money because we took a stand against the ruling party. For the 2014 elections we spent from our pockets and took loans too. Now no one in the party has any money to spend,” he said.
The preference for an alliance with the DMK was a prosaic one, he continued. “If we ally with the DMK, their district secretaries will spend for campaigning for our candidates,” he stated. “We wouldn’t have to worry. But whether we contest alone or with the PWF, we will end up having to take more loans and spend, because the PWF consists of tiny parties with no money or muscle,” he explained.
This was even pointed out subtly at the press conference addressed by V Chandrakumar, DMDK MLA. “In the last election, we even pawned our wives’ ‘thaali’ (mangalsutra) to campaign,” he said. “We have spent so much of our own money on elections, the party has not given us anything — we have done all this out of genuine love for our leader Captain,” he said.
Chandrakumar also alleged that during candidate interviews, Vijayakanth had continually indicated that a tie-up with the DMK was in the offing. He said that neither he, nor other district secretaries were aware of the impending announcement of an alliance with the PWF, even on the morning of the announcement.
The insider refutes this allegation. “Everyone was told about the PWF alliance a day before,” he stated. “These people did not open their mouths then. What is the point of talking now?”
Chandrakumar also alleged that the very next day after the announcement of the alliance with PWF, on 24 March, he and other district secretaries had submitted a letter to Captain, expressing their disappointment at the alliance and requesting him to rethink the decision. “Captain kept telling us to be patient,” he alleged.
Another DMDK MLA though disagrees. “Chandrakumar is lying about the letter,” said Azhagapuram Mohanraj. “There is no truth in any of his allegations. Chandrakumar has betrayed the party and Captain. There is no setback to us due to the exit of these people.”
A rebel DMDK MLA told Firstpost, on condition of anonymity, that DMK leaders had reached out to him as long as a year-and-a-half ago. “They wanted me to join the party,” he admitted. “I asked for the district secretary post that they were not willing to give me. So I declined it at that time,” he said. When questioned about whether the DMK had made any offer recently, he categorically denied it. DMK leaders were unavailable for comment on this development.
In February this year, Vijayakanth, at a rally in Kanchipuram asked his cadre – “Do you want me to be king or kingmaker?” The crowd roared back in response – “King”. Both options now look like a tough ask, with his soldiers deserting the ranks.
The politicking for May 2016 has only just begun.
The author tweets @anandkso