OPINION: Kalaignar. Makkal Thilagam. Puratchi Thalaivi. Thalapathy?

Nothing in Vijay’s note announcing the formation of his party indicates where he stands ideologically or on issues of concern to the Tamils.

ByDr Sumanth Raman

Published Feb 04, 2024 | 11:00 AMUpdatedFeb 04, 2024 | 11:00 AM

Tamizha Vetri Kazhagam vijay

Why would a middle-aged movie star with a massive fan following in Tamil Nadu, who is still not entirely past his prime, want to risk taking on all and sundry in the dirty world of politics?

With fans across the political spectrum, why would he want to alienate many of them? What makes him believe he can succeed where several equally accomplished colleagues have come a cropper?

As Vijay, one of Tamil cinema’s biggest stars at present, announced his entry into politics, these were some of the questions people of the state were grappling with.

There are no clear answers to several of these questions.

Vijay, the movie star, is still doing well. Nearing 50, he is not a youngster anymore, but he still commands huge box office appeal. His fans, especially the youth, are diehard worshippers of their “Thalapathy”, or young leader.

His last few movies are said to have broken box office records, though critics had a different view of them. At any rate, he is still a very saleable star.

Related: Tamizhaga Vetri Kazhagam: Tamil actor Vijay announces new political party

The new party

On 2 February, Vijay announced that he was entering politics through his new political party, Tamizhaga Vetri Kazhagam, or Tamil Nadu Victory Party(TVK). While the announcement was not entirely a surprise, with the actor having transformed his fans association into a social service platform, naming it the Vijay Makkal Iyakkam or Vijay People’s Movement some years ago, the timing still caught many off-guard.

Vijay said his new party would not be contesting the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and would make its debut in the 2026 Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. He also made the usual noises that all wannabe politicians make about wanting to rid the state of corruption, caste inequities, and the like.

Nothing in his note announcing his party indicated where he stands ideologically or on any of the major issues concerning the state’s people. In that sense, we need to wait to see how his politics will unfold.

Political parties reacted cautiously to his entry.

No one really knows for sure who would be impacted by Vijay’s entry and by how much. So, they played it safe, saying anyone was welcome to enter politics, and they wished him well. DMK leader Kanimozhi, though, struck a slightly different note, saying that Vijay’s entry would not impact her party.

This was possibly the closest hint of concern from the ruling party that Vijay could eat into some of the votes from the established Dravidian parties.

The surprise reaction was the enthusiastic response from the BJP, which in the past has had its differences with the actor about his on-screen criticism of the Union government and its policies.

Related: As Vijay turns 49, let’s take a quick look at his journey to stardom

Not Dravida, Tamizhaga

Now that he has entered politics, Vijay is fair game, and all existing players will soon train their guns on him. However, they first need to know, as do the people of the State, what he stands for and how he proposes to achieve it.

Politics in Tamil Nadu has centred around the two Dravidian parties since 1967. Innumerable parties have entered the arena with “Dravida” in their name. Interestingly, Vijay avoided Dravida in the party name and chose Tamizhaga instead. This has not gone unnoticed.

Also, the Dravidian parties prefer to use the name “Tamizh Nadu” instead of “Tamizhaga”, which has been favoured by the BJP and now by Vijay. Again, no one knows if this is really significant.

It is way too early to predict whether Vijay, the politician with an inexperienced team, limited resources, and an ideology that is as yet unclear, will succeed.

The odds are stacked against him. Lined up on the other side are political parties with seasoned politicians, deep pockets, muscle power and some with the might of the State behind them. Taking them on is no easy task.

Is Vijay up for the battle? We will know over the coming year.

(The author is a health innovation specialist, television personality, avid quizzer, columnist and political analyst. Views are personal.)