Chennai: With a 10 per cent vote-share and a maverick leader striking instant chord with his unconventional ways, DMDK is threatening to play spoilsport to Dravidian arch rivals DMK and AIADMK, who have much stake in the high voltage April 24 Lok Sabha polls.
DMDK founder Vijayakanth, more popular as `captain`, launched his political party in 2005 amid much fanfare and expectations, touting it as an alternative to DMK and AIADMK.
In its nine years of journey, DMDK has had its share of ups and downs, even as it has turned out to be the most wooed party for an alliance, which was evident in the recent BJP-led coalition where the saffron party had to burn the midnight oil to clinch a deal with him.
Protracted negotiations and PMK`s old rivalry with DMDK besides overlapping of wish-list constituencies threatened to derail seat-sharing agreement even as DMK and Congress were said to be prepared to accommodate the party even at the last minute.
However, BJP had the better of PMK, prevailing upon it to sacrifice key seats including Salem where the Vanniyar-backed party had set its eyes for a possible victory and had even announced its nominee.
The two Dravidian parties have enough reasons to worry since DMDK has in the earlier elections lived up to its reputation of being a `spoiler` and splitting votes.
It turned out to be the nemesis of the J Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK in 2006 (Assembly) and 2009 (Lok Sabha) polls, eating into her party`s votes, allowing either DMK or its allies win the elections or resulting in AIADMK candidates winning by relatively small margins only.
In 2006 the party won only one seat, with Vijayakanth himself being elected from Vriddhachalam constituency, though he fielded candidates for all 234 seats, but secured an eight per cent vote share. The then ruling AIADMK was defeated.
The scene in 2009 Lok Sabha elections for 39 constituencies, where DMDK contested all of them, was no different. Nine of the DMDK candidates secured more than one lakh votes each in constituencies such as Kancheepuram, Dharmapuri, Arani, Kallakurichi, Dindigul and Virudhunagar, where MDMK`s Vaiko lost by just 15,754 votes.
In places like Kallakurichi and Virudhunagar, DMDK came third. However, none of its 39 candidates won. The party polled 10 per cent of the popular votes, seen as a very good show by political analysts.
This prompted Jayalalithaa to ensure she buried her differences and stitched up an alliance with DMDK besides Left parties for the 2011 Assembly elections, which her party won by a landslide margin. However, the two fell out of favour soon, with the Chief Minister ruing her electoral tie-up with Vijayakanth.
AIADMK men insist that it was the Jayalalithaa factor that resulted in 29 of DMDK MLAs including Vijayakanth being elected, with the party founder himself becoming the Opposition Leader in the 234-member House.
However, the party was jolted by a series of defections, with seven MLAs switching loyalty to AIADMK camp even as the `captain` lost the precious wicket of veteran leader Panrutty S Ramchandran, a politically shrewd leader, who not only quit as Alandur MLA but also from the party and joined the ruling AIADMK.
Known for his unconventional ways, such as addressing public meetings while wearing sunglasses and purportedly beating up a candidate in 2011 while on the campaign trail, Vijayakanth also seems to connect to the masses instantly.
Vijayakanth addresses the people in colloquial style, much unlike DMK`s M Karunanidhi or Jayalalithaa, and refers to issues that strike a chord immediately, such as asking what use are AIADMK`s freebies like fans and mixer when there is `no power`.
By calling him `captain`, Vijayakant`s loyalists have carried forward the political trend in Tamil Nadu, of that of not addressing the leader by name.
While DMK patriarch Karunanidhi and his son M K Stalin are addressed as Kalaignar (artiste) and Thalapathy (Commander), their arch rival, AIADMK general secretary and Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is `Amma` (mother) for supporters.