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Actor Vijay’s silent foray into Tamil Nadu politics

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Following the footsteps of actor and DMDK president Captain Vijayakanth, a fan club called Thalapathy Vijay Makkal Iyakkam (TVMI) is testing the strength of Vijay’s base before the actor floats his party to play a bigger role in the politics of Tamil Nadu.

By ANUP KUMAR


In the recently concluded two-phase elections to 27,000 posts in Tamil Nadu local bodies held in nine districts, the results of which were announced on October 12, the ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and its alliance registered a sweeping victory, leaving their main rival the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) far behind. For the ruling party, poll outcome is all the more significant as it came after it had defeated the then incumbent AIADMK in the Assembly polls held few months back. 

But what surprised many in the state’s political arena is the performance of actor Vijay’s fan club— Thalapathy Vijay Makkal Iyakkam (TVMI) — given that  veteran actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan’s party Makkal Needhi Maiam or filmmaker-politician Seeman’s Naam’s Tamizhar Katchi failed to open their accounts. Members associated with TVMI have won more than 100 seats in the polls. 

They put out a significant performance across all the nine districts, especially in Kallakurichi, Kancheepuram, Villupuram.

A grand entry in rural local body

According to a senior functionary in TVMI, a total of 169 candidates contested in the election and 121 of them have won, recording a 68 per cent strike rate. The success of TVMI comes as astonishing at a time when Vijay has chosen to remain silent about his political plans. In fact, when his father S.A. Chandrasekar registered a political party in Vijay’s name, the actor chose to distance himself and asked his fan club members not to be part of the registered party.

For the record, nearly three years ago, National Political Mirror had reported that Vijay, another popular and young actor who has a humungous following among the young fans, was itching to stake his claim as a worthy entrant into political arena, which is on a constant flux in the post-Jayalalithaa and post-Karunanidhi phase.

It has been learnt that actor Vijay had given consent for the first time to office-bearers TVMI to contest the polls. Political pundits say that it’s a message to the rest of the political class of the state. The performance is further significant because neither Vijay nor his fan club had openly campaigned for their members. However, in Madurai, posters were put up by the Madurai South wing members of TVMI which read, “We are coming in 2021 local body polls, we will provide good governance in 2026 (state assembly polls).”

A senior TVMI functionary remarked that “Had our Thalapathy campaigned, we would have even swept the elections. Even bigger political parties have got fewer seats than us. The people of Tamil Nadu are trusting our Thalapathy and the results are a testament to that. Like us, the public is awaiting his entry into politics.” 

Often touted as the highest paid actor, Vijay performed in hit films like ‘Katthi’, ‘Mersal’ and ‘Sarkar’, which propelled him into a massive fan following in Tamil Nadu and Tamil-speaking diaspora worldwide. Today, TVMI has more than 10 lakh registered members even as the fans association generally does not have any political affiliations. It should also be remembered that 

Vijay had extended support to the AIADMK and Jayalalithaa in 2011 elections. Hence, he is not untouched by politics. 

Vijay’s politically-loaded films

Earlier, Vijay’s ‘Sarkar’ courted controversy for his politically-loaded dialogues and scenes and faced criticism from the ruling AIADMK for an alleged reference to late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, and the fact that it had allegedly depicted certain government schemes in a poor light. The AIADMK supporters took to the streets and demanded definite cuts in the film which led to re-censoring of the film to remove the ‘objectionable portions.’ Mersal also created controversies as it had played fast and loose with the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in respect of the healthcare industry. Film took on the logic of the GST regime and questioned the rationale behind implementing it, when even basic health amenities were denied to the common man in a country like ours. 

However, it is a well-known fact that in Tamil Nadu, politics and cinema have been inextricably linked with each other. Tamil filmdom has a history of operating as a vehicle for political mobilization: three of the State’s chief ministers — M Karunanidhi, MG Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa — trace their roots to cinema. It was Karunanidhi’s searing screenplay, laden with political messaging, that laid the foundation for the ascent of the DMK to power in the 1960s; MGR too charted a similar trajectory, but as an actor, and later anointed Jayalalithaa as his political heir.

Booster for Vijay’s fans 

Already positioned as one of the superstars of Tamil cinema, rural local body election has provided the much-needed booster for actor Vijay’s fans who are awaiting their hero’s political entry. The number of seats Vijay fans contested or won in the village panchayat wards may appear insignificant as compared to the total local body positions in the state but the taste of victory on debut may lead to a bigger role for the actor in state politics.

TVMI members are likely to contest in the upcoming urban local body polls scheduled to take place in a couple of months. Many argue that Vijay’s style of testing the strength of his base in the local body election is akin to actor and DMDK president Captain Vijayakanth. Before floating his party in 2005, he made the members of his fan club contest in the local body polls and many of them emerged victorious.

Vijay is yet to take a firm decision on taking the political plunge, but the fan club members have raised hopes that there will be yet another star rising in Tamil Nadu politics.

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