Ailing Vijaykanth finally hits campaign trail in Chennai

Actor-turned politician and Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) founder, Vijayakanth, launched his poll campaign in Chennai on Monday, the penultimate day for electioneering, ending speculation over whether he would step out at all because of heath issues.

Captain, as the actor is known his followers, did not disappoint but, spoke only a few words at Villivakkam, the first point of his road show. Enthusiastic DMDK cadre and those from the AIADMK-led alliance burst crackers to welcome him. In his brief two line address, he sought votes for the Pattali Makkal Katchi candidate, SR Sam Paul, a fashion entrepreneur.

“Is my voice audible to every one?….I request you with love to cast your votes for the PMK candidate in his mango symbol. Thank you,” was all that he said. It was in stark contrast to previous elections where he was the star campaigner, drawing huge crowds across the state.

A constituent of the AIADMK-BJP alliance, the DMDK is contesting in four Lok Sabha seats out of the 39 in the state. Vijayakant, the star campaigner for his party in the past elections, had kept himself out of the campaign until Monday.

His next stop was Perambur in North Chennai Lok Sabha constituency, where the DMDK has fielded Alagapuram R Mohanraj, an import from Salem. Then, he canvassed votes for AIADMK candidate J Jayavardhan, sittign MP and son of Tamil Nadu Minister D Jayakumar, in South Chennai constituency.

Though Vijayakanth appeared bright, his voice showed that he was not his former self. In the 2016 assembly poll campaign itself, his failing health was visible and he could not speak coherently. Shortly after that he had left for the United States for treatment.

Vijayakant returned from the United States in the middle of February, weeks ahead of sealing the alliance with the AIADMK. The tie-up was struck following Union Minister Piyush Goyal’s visit to Vijayakanth’s residence and subsequent negotiations.

Hours before launching his poll campaign, Vijayakant released a video, urging the electorate to vote for the DMDK and its allies .

The release of the video sparked off rumours that the actor would not enter the campaign.

With Vijayakanth remaining confined to his house, his wife and party treasurer, Premalatha, shouldered the burden of the campaign, keeping up the spirit of the party workers.

The DMDK which secured over 10 per cent vote share in the 2011 assembly elections replaced the Congress as the third force in the state politics. The party also emerged as the main opposition in the state assembly. But, in the 2016 elections, which the DMDK faced in the company of the Left parties, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Tamil Maanila Congress, the party’s vote share plummeted to 2.3 per cent. As such, the party is fighting to retain its electoral relevance.

“Seeing Captain’s face is enough for us. Though ‘Anni’ (Sister-in-law) is campaigning very hard, Vijayakant has charisma. Though Captain could not travel everywhere, his campaign in Chennai will help boost the morale of our party,” said Ravi, a DMDK worker.

However, for political analyst Aazhi Senthilnaathan this is nothing but a strategy to gain sympathy and reap electoral dividends.

“The party is fighting with its back to the wall to remain politically relevant. Vijayakanth’s health is such that he is not able to move alone. That he is very weak is very much visible and it is pathetic that he should be troubled and tortured like this for electoral purpose. It is a clear attempt to play up the sympathy card,” he said.

First Published:
Apr 15, 2019 23:06 IST

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