The Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), once seen as an alternative to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AADMK), is no more its old vigorous self. The captain, as party chief Vijayakant is called, and crew, had gone down without trace in the previous assembly polls in 2016. Vijayakant’s wife, Premalatha Vijayakant, who is also the party treasurer, is the face of the organisation after her husband’s became indisposed.
Premalatha has been campaigning across the State for the AIADMK alliance candidates. On the last day of the campaign for the Lok Sabha polls on Tuesday (April 16), she was in Chennai to campaign for DMDK candidate Azhagapuram R Mohanraj.
In Royapuram, part of the North Chennai constituency, people started gathering at 11 am as news spread that Premalatha Vijayakant was to address a gathering an hour later. There were drummers to add to the frenzy and some 100 workers of the PMK, DMDK, and the AIADMK had gathered. As people got restless, the organisers played hit numbers from Vijayakant movies.
Around 1.20 pm, Vijayakant’s famous song ‘Ne Pottu Vecha Thanga Kudam Ooruku Ne Magudam’ from the movie Ponmana Selvan. On hearing the song, the crowd started sloganeering, praising DMDK leader Vijayakant and Premalatha. Soon after the campaign van pulled over, Premalatha took to the microphone and urged people to vote for Mohanraj. She said the ‘people should teach the DMK a lesson.’ He asked all alliance party workers to work vigorously on the last day to ‘chase the DMK which called on the doorsteps with cash.’
During the brief speech in Royapuram, there was a huge uproar whenever she mentioned the PMK. Soon after she left the spot, cadres hurriedly left the spot. The Federal could learn that the cadres were collecting cash from a local PMK leader. “She would have come to seek our votes. But we do not even know who the candidate is. Today morning, they offered us Rs 200 per person and we came here,” a woman said on condition of anonymity.
When asked why there were no more women there, she said, all of them had gone to TTV Dhinakaran’s meeting in the same locality where the offer was Rs 300 per person.
Vijayakant was last seen during the signing of the alliance pact with the AIADMK-BJP. However, he did not speak either to the reporters or to his cadres. In the run-up to the election, Premalatha Vijayakant had stated that her husband would join the campaign trail. On Sunday, the party announced that Captain would campaign for Azhagapuram Mohanraj and Sam Paul (PMK) contesting from north and central Chennai Lok Sabha seats respectively.
The announcement came as a surprise for the DMDK cadres and on Monday afternoon people started gathering near the Villivakkam bus stand. Even as the captain had not turned up, people seemed upbeat, for, Vijayakant was to address the masses after nearly five years.
This time again, Vijayakant songs were being played out loud. By 4 pm, the campaign van slowly rolled in and Vijayakant was on the front seat. The cadres were soon to set off the crackers amid sloganeering in praise of Vijayakant. Clearing his throat, Vijayakant picked up the microphone and asked, “Do you hear me?” Then, the leader said, “Vote for our mango symbol and get Sam Paul to win.”
After a speech of less than a minute, Captain moved to Kolathur in North Chennai and asked the people to not for DMK leader MK Stalin. He asked the voters to vote for Murasu symbol and make his candidate Alagapuram Mohanraj win.
Vijayakant’s movie career started in the late 1980s when Tamil cinema was ruled by superstars Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. An ordinary man, Vijayakant had already made a name for his himself by then. As most of his films were in the village genre, other young heroes toed his line to make a mark. He was fondly called Captain after his film Captain Prabhakar in 1991 became a great success. Being the leader of the Nadigar Sangam, his work at the ground level and for the benefit of indigent artistes earned him a good name.
Subsequently, following in the footprints of MG Ramachandran, he tested the political waters in 2005 and launched the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK). In the next election in 2006, he fielded his party cadres in all the 234 constituencies, but, only Vijayakant won the election in the Virdhachalam constituency. Nevertheless, Vijayakant’s DMDK managed to secure a 10.1% of votes in the election, which was significant then. Later, in 2011, even though he was seen as an alternative to the DMK and the AIADMK, both the Dravidian parties were trying to strike an alliance with the DMDK. In the race, AIADMK managed to take him on board and faced the 2011 assembly election.
In the election, the DMDK managed to win as many as 29 assembly seats and became the second largest party in the State. The party sat in the opposition. However, things did not go well and eight MLAs switched allegiance. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the party managed to fix an alliance with the NDA but it did not yield any result.
Vijayakant, with his wild gesticulations and mannerisms, became the butt of trolls and memes. His unclear speeches and short-temper did more bad. Even after stitching up an alliance with the NDA alliance, the DMDK failed to garner votes and did not win in a single seat. In the 2016 assembly elections, when the DMK was waiting to offer the seats that the DMDK demanded, MDMK’s Vaiko played the spoiler, forming a third front. He announced Captain as their chief ministerial candidate. Nevertheless, the situation went worse as the third front could not even secure a single seat.
For a brief while since 2016, captain was away from active politics and went abroad for treatment. The ‘kind-hearted’ man, known to break down very often, has not but involved in any hate speech till now. After the demise of the DMK patriarch, M Karunanidhi, Captain, who could not turn up, released a condolence video. Even in the video, he broke down and cried uncontrollably. Now, the party is with the AIADMK alliance and is contesting in four constituencies including North Chennai.