Tamil politics: The rise of Thalapathy Vijay

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Tamil politics: The rise of Thalapathy Vijay

Wednesday, 14 February 2024 | Kalyani Shankar

Tamil politics: The rise of Thalapathy Vijay

Thalapathy Vijay, a prominent actor, has ventured into politics with the formation of a party. Can he make a difference in Tamil politics?

Thalapathy Vijay, a prominent Tamil actor, has ventured into politics with the formation of his party, Thamizhaga Vetri Kazhagam. Can he make a difference in Tamil politics?

Tamil superstar Thalapathy Vijay launched his political party, Thamizhaga Vetri Kazhagam, last week. He declared that his party will only contest the 2026 Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu, not the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The question is whether he will succeed.

After the launch of his party, Vijay said, "I have one more film I have signed, and I will finish it and ultimately involve myself in politics. I have been preparing myself for my political journey for a long time. I will devote myself to the people of Tamil Nadu. This is the only way I can give back to my people." This is a typical argument that many politicians use to present themselves as genuine do-gooders.

Successful actor-turned-politicians in Tamil Nadu included M.G. Ramachandran, J. Jayalalithaa, M. Karunanidhi, C.N. Annadurai, and Captain Vijayakanth. Shivaji Ganesan, Sarathkumar, Napoleon, and S.S. Rajendran was unsuccessful.

 MGR had a strong base in the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and got the party votes till he launched AIADMK in 1972. Jayalalithaa, on the other hand, was known for her anti-DMK stance and gained popularity on that platform.

Kamal Haasan founded his political party, Makkal Needhi Maiam, in 2018. Unfortunately, his party won no seats in the 2019 and 2021 elections. On the other hand, Vijaykant showed promise at the start of his political career in 2005 but could not sustain it. He passed away recently.

Thalapathi (General) Vijay is a well-known actor from the Udayar community and a Christian. He is rumoured to earn around 150 crores per film and faces little competition from famous actors like Ajith. Rajnikant has declined his political entry after three decades of speculation. Kamal Hassan's party has not picked up.

Vijay plans to run for the position of chief minister in the 2026 Assembly elections. He has sufficient time to gain the public's trust as an alternative to the ruling DMK and

AIADMK. His primary opponent in the generational shift is Udayanidhi, a minister and the son of the current chief minister, M.K. Stalin.

Vijay's political party plans to adopt a political philosophy incorporating the ideas of three significant figures. While B.R. Ambedkar advocated for Dalits' rights, Periyar was a well-known social reformer. Kamaraj was an advocate for the backward class. Notably, Vijay has decided not to use the term "Dravida" in his party's name. Vijay aims to win voters' support from different political parties, including the ruling DMK and the primary opposition AIADMK. The others in the race are Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), PMK, Makkal Needhi Maiam, and VCK. He must lure voters from all these parties to win the election.

In the past, Vijay's political support included the India Against Corruption movement in 2011. He also backed the pro-jallikattu protests in 2017. He met with the families of the victims of the Thoothukudi incident in 2018. On the other hand, despite public expectations for decades, Rajinikanth is now out of the picture.

Vijay has an advantage in Tamil Nadu, a state obsessed with films. He is young, a crowd-puller, and his timing is right. Additionally, his Tamil identity gives him an edge over Rajinikanth, whose Marathi roots and BJP/RSS ties have sparked controversy in the Dravidian-dominated state.

Vijay's success hinges on his communication skills and how he defines his party's ideology. He must effectively contrast it with the Dravidian doctrine of DMK and AIADMK parties and adopt an aggressive posture.

Vijay must declare which political party he is contesting against. Is it the DMK, AIADMK, or is it the? As a newcomer, his best bet is to oppose the ruling government, the DMK. This strategy worked for J. Jayalalithaa, who positioned herself against the DMK and its leader, Karunanidhi. This ultimately led to her success as a politician.

Can Vijay win over rival parties and overcome DMK's anti-incumbency sentiment? DMK and AIADMK have a 50-year history of alternating power with a strong 30% vote base. DMK prioritizes infrastructure, while AIADMK focuses on populist schemes. Vijay's party will impact other players regardless of the election result."

To ensure his success in the 2026 election, Vijay needs to focus on setting up booth committees. Since DMK and AIADMK already have a solid voter base, he needs to motivate his rural supporters to become actual voters.

There's a rumour that his party is getting support from the BJP in exchange for help in 2026. He needs to address it. It's premature to predict what the future holds for Vijay. His success will depend on whether he can build a solid fan base like MGR or N.T. Rama Rao, who both had good political advisers - something Vijay currently lacks. He is yet to build his party. Although the road ahead will be challenging, Vijay can overcome obstacles through hard work and dedication.

(The writer is a popular columnist; views are personal)

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