Vijaykant, a new star on the political horizon

FIGHTING CORRUPTION: Vijaykant addressing a wayside meeting in Tiruchi district. File photo: M. Moorthy  

V. Jayanth

People seem to be keener on looking at him rather than listening to what he says

CHENNAI: Film star Vijaykant has hit the roads in southern Tamil Nadu. The summer is just hotting up and he drives along the highways and local roads through the morning and late afternoon. But curious crowds gather at important road inter-sections, which are specially decorated with his party festoons. He stops his convoy there and addresses the people, who seem to be keener on looking at him, rather than listening to what he says.

And there may be nothing new in what he says. Initially, people wanted to know which alliance he would join. But there has been no positive movement on that front, and Vijaykant has been taking the line that the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) will go it alone in the election and think of joining the "right coalition" after the polls. He is convinced that no single party will win a majority and he may be in a position to help them form a government.

Though the matinee idol, who is modelling himself on the `MGR mould,' does not get too personal in his barbed attacks on politicians and political parties, the burden of his entire campaign is on "corruption" and how to root it out. And the option he gives is to vote his party to power. There seem to be two things that attract people to him (1) the novelty of another film star striking out on his own and seeking a political mandate and (2) the possibility of seeing new neighbourhood faces in the elections to represent the DMDK.

It remains to be seen what impact Mr. Vijaykant and his new party can make on the State's voters. Even if he manages to secure five per cent of the votes, he may be reserving a place for the DMDK in future elections and one alliance or another may want to enter into an electoral understanding with him. But that is in the future. For now, the film actor will have to prove himself, and prove that his fan following can be converted into votes. The only advantage that his party may enjoy seems to be the unearthing and exposure of new faces to the electorate. Assuming the DMDK goes it alone and chooses to contest in over 100 constituencies, it will have to throw up a battalion of new faces in the electoral arena, and people are thirsting for new entrants. Leaving the DMDK aside, the voters now want to see new and young faces in the Assembly. They seem to be tiring of "old faces" and "veterans in politics." While the Dravidian parties have been blooding young talent every now and then, it is perhaps the Congress that needs to identify and groom youngsters. An academic in the Madurai Kamaraj University asks: "The politicians enacted laws to restrict the term of Vice Chancellors and even members of the Senate and Syndicates to two terms. Should we not think of some tenure limits for elected representatives?" Though some voters are happy when top leaders contest from their constituency and implement major projects in the area, they concede that it is first-time MLAs or MPs who are more easily accessible - of course with special exceptions.