'Captain', NaMo need each other in Tamil Nadu (Election Special)
BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will need to bank on the charisma of actor-turned-politician A. Vijayakanth in the Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu.
The 61-year-old Vijayakanth finds himself in choppy political waters with many of his legislators deserting him. But many believe that the 'Captain', as he is widely known after his movie "Captain Prabhakaran", could end up playing a major role when Tamil Nadu picks 39 members for the Lok Sabha in April.
Bharatiya Janata Party leaders say their party's alliance with Vijayakanth's DMDK and other parties will pose a major challenge to the two main established parties of Tamil Nadu: the AIADMK and the DMK.
The BJP-DMDK alliance is important since tensions now plague relations between the BJP and the AIADMK. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and Modi were widely known to be friends for a long time.
"This is the first time in Tamil Nadu that a formidable front has been formed against the AIADMK and DMK," BJP state secretary K.T. Raghavan told IANS.
The alliance also includes Vaiko's MDMK, the PMK and smaller outfits such as the IJK and KNMDK.
In 2011, the DMDK was wooed into AIADMK's mega alliance to oust the DMK government. The DMDK won 29 seats to become the second largest in the 235-member assembly. Vijayakanth became the leader of the opposition.
He was the flavour of the election season.
Raghavan explained how Vijayakanth - also known as "Karuppu MGR" (Black MGR) - could help the BJP make major gains in Tamil Nadu.
"There is a committed work force with the DMDK. The BJP can have the comfort of the Modi wave. To convert that wave into votes it needs feet on the ground which the DMDK has," the BJP leader told IANS.
"Further, Vijayakanth has appeal across the state - amongst Dalits, youths and the middle class."
But some argue that the DMDK has been overrated by the BJP. The DMDK is tipped to contest 14 Lok Sabha seats.
"It is a crucial election for Vijayakanth," Ramu Manivannan, a political science professor in the University of Madras, told IANS.
According to him, Vijayakanth's political future hinges on factors like the DMDK winning a considerable number of Lok Sabha seats and the party joining a BJP-led government in New Delhi - if the BJP does take power.
Another BJP leader told IANS: "We are aware of Vijayakanth's political predicaments. But it is a fact that the DMDK polled around 10 percent of votes in the 2009 Lok Sabha election."
"The 10 percent vote share proves there is a sizable segment of people who are in search of an alternative to the AIADMK and DMK," he added.
On his part, 'Captain' Vijayakanth is hoping to steer his DMDK 'ship' from choppy waters.
If he does well in the Lok Sabha battle, he is sure to mount an attack on Fort St. George, the seat of political power in Tamil Nadu, in 2016.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 18-03-2014)