Vijayakanth plays the familiar hard-to-get

Vijayakanth with DMK leader M K Stalin. File photo.

With the 2019 Lok Sabha elections solidifying in Tamil Nadu into a two-way fight between the DMK and the AIADMK-led fronts, the two major parties are working to ensure they get every available vote.

Not so surprisingly, both parties are wooing Vijayakanth’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), though he is by and large a spent force in the state politics.

Vijayakanth’s poor health coupled with the humiliating defeat in the 2016 elections after being projected as the chief ministerial candidate of the third front meant that he was largely out of the public view in the past two years.

In a fresh election season when the major parties want to ensure they are ahead in the perception battle, Vijayakanth seems back in business almost the moment he touched down after getting treatment in the United States.

Though it appeared, in the beginning, he would throw his lot with the AIADMK-led alliance, Vijayakanth has been playing hard-to-get, negotiating with both the fronts. Politicians left no one in doubt why they call on Vijayakanth in the pretext of enquiring after his health.

The procession began last week with former Tamil Nadu Congress leader Su Thirunavukkarasar, who made no secret to the media the crux of his conversation. “I asked him to decide (on the alliance) with the nation’s welfare in mind,” he said with a wry smile.

Rajnikanth, whose visit to the DMDK leader’s Saligramam residence created a buzz in the media, maintained that he merely reciprocated the care Vijayakanth showed when he was ailing. But the Tamil media believes that he was a BJP emissary to ensure Vijayakanth stayed with the NDA.

The biggest surprise was DMK leader MK Stalin calling on Vijayakanth, even as his party was working harder to arrive at a satisfactory seat-sharing deal with its allies.

Between these high-profile visits, BJP Tamil Nadu in-charge Piyush Goyal dropped by twice, even as senior AIADMK leaders, including Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, assured the media of their confidence
that the DMDK will eventually join their ‘Mega Kootani’.

While the heat is on the Pattali Makkal Katchi for their abject climb-down in forging an alliance with the AIADMK, Vijayakanth’s apparent stand-off presents a totally different optics, notwithstanding accusations that he applies the familiar delaying tactics for a better deal.

Vijayakanth’s older son Vijay Prabhakaran, who is likely to be a star campaigner in the forthcoming polls, has been making speeches about how political parties are “falling at the feet” of his father to seal the alliance.

But even with such false bravado, the steady decline of his vote share, which began at nearly 8% during his first electoral foray in 2006, peaked in 2009 LS polls at more than 10% and crashed to about 2.5% in 2016, it is yet unclear if Vijayakanth’s party has the numbers to swing it for either of the alliance.

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Vijayakanth plays the familiar hard-to-get

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