Tamil Nadu Assembly Election 2016: Its strange vote-share makes Vijayakanth's DMDK attractive to opposition parties

Actor-turned-politician, Captain Vijayakanth is an interesting character in Tamil Nadu politics. Although he doesn’t boast of the long political history of the Dravidian giants, the DMK and the AIADMK, his DMDK is the third most important party in the state.

Justifiably he is the most sought after ally among the opposition parties.

File image of actor-turned politician Vijayakanth.

File image of actor-turned politician Vijayakanth.

The BJP always wanted him on their side and had even sent Union Minister Prakash Javadekar to Chennai twice to get Vijayakanth on its side, but the latter played hardball and refused to commit. While Javadekar met with him in February raising the BJP’s hopes for an alliance, a week later, he evaded the minister when he came down again. The BJP is still hopeful even as Vijayakanth is camping in Delhi with his men.

Also waiting for his return is former chief minister and a veteran of many elections, M Karunanidhi of DMK. His alliance with the Congress is far too weak to take on Jayalalithaa and hence he also wants the Captain on his side. Apparently the latter is more favourably disposed towards Karuna, but hasn’t committed yet. The state is in fact keen to know who are the leaders Vijayakanth is meeting in Delhi - the BJP or the Congress.

It’s not just the BJP or the DMK that’s desperately wooing Vijayakanth. MDMK’s Vaiko, who has tied with Dalit party VCK and the Left, is also hopeful that the actor-politician will not disappoint him.

But among his suitors, the most certain is Karunanidhi who told the media in Chennai on Tuesday that Vijaykanth will ultimately walk into this camp. And he is probably right because neither the BJP nor the MDMK-VCK-Left front has the muscle to take on the AIADMK. The contest is certainly going to be multi-cornered and his only chance is with the DMK, which has already tied up with the Congress. Moreover, the BJP might join the AIADMK camp at the last minute.

Its strange vote-share is what makes the DMDK attractive to the opposition parties and is often analysed both in favour of and against Vijayakanth. In 2006, when his party contested the assembly elections first time, it polled about 10 percent of the total votes. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the party fielded candidates in all the 39 constituencies and improved the total number of votes polled and pushed up its vote-share to 10.3 percent. These two performance were remarkable for a new party, which evidently had no major political strategy. The AIDMK was obviously impressed and took it to its fold in 2011 assembly elections, which led to a real windfall. The party won 29 seats and even become the official opposition party.

Relationship with Jaya soured soon and in 2014, it joined the NDA and contested in 14 Lok Sabha constituencies. Commensurate with the number of seats contested, its vote-share slid to 5.1 percent.

Although Jaya claimed that the DMDK owed its success solely to her party in 2011, what cannot be ignored is that the overall support base of Vijayakanth appears to be stable. Whether his party contested 236 assembly seats in 2006 or 41 in 2011, the total number of votes remained more or less the same. That he polled more than 10 percent votes on his own when he contested all the Lok Sabha seats in 2009 certainly shows that he has consistent support base across the state. That, on both the occasions when the DMDK contested in all the constituencies, it polled about 10 percent votes is the most reliable indicator of Vijaykanth's electoral presence. On the other two occasion, he was in alliance and had contested only 41 (assembly in 2011) and 14 (Lok Sabha in 2014) seats respectively.

Therefore, unless there is a major erosion, the more reliable vote-share for the DMDK is about 10 percent and that’s what makes the party a hot property although some analysts believe that his following is more hype than real. For the DMK, although it hasn’t won any seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the number of votes hasn’t come down. In fact, it has improved marginally compared to the 2006 and 2011 elections, during which its vote-shares were about 26 percent and 23 percent respectively. When combined with the votes of DMDK and the Congress, its chances do appear stronger, particularly if the AIADMK contests alone.

Reportedly, the DMDK is bargaining hard for a share of power in the government, which both the Dravidian parties have been overprotective about. The DMK, although in an acutely desperate situation, doesn’t want Vijayakanth and his people to become ministers in its government. Karuna is playing it hard because he knows that other than the DMK, Vijayakanth’s alliance-options are practically zilch. Tying up with the BJP or the MDMK-VCK-Left front is just a waste of its resources. That’s what makes Karuna confident that “the fruit will ultimately fall in the milk” as he said proverbially on Tuesday. It doesn’t matter that he and his family were the sole targets of Vijayakanth’s vituperation in 2011.

With the Congress and the DMDK on its side, the DMK does have some chance. However, if the AIADMK joins hands with the BJP at the last minute, it could be a whitewash.

Updated Date: May 18, 2016 16:24 PM

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