The new star on Tamil Nadu political firmament

The new star on Tamil Nadu political firmament

The political scene in Tamil Nadu has got crowded with yet another film star hoping to channel his box office backing into political support. “Thalapathy” Vijay or Commander Vijay launched his political party, Tamizhaga Vetri Kazhagam (Tamil Nadu Victory Party), last week and announced he would fight the 2026 assembly elections in the state. Barring the occasional comment or stray remark in films, Vijay has not given any indication of what his politics are. If the party’s name is any indication, he wants to stay clear of the Dravidian lineage but tap into the Tamil sentiment that is central to politics in the state.

Tirunelveli [Tamil Nadu], Feb 02 (ANI): Actor Vijay’s supporters in Tirunelveli celebrate as the actor enters politics, and announces the name of his party – Tamilaga Vetri Kazham, in Tirunelveli on Friday. (ANI Photo)(ANI)

Box office draw and the size of fan clubs suggest that Vijay, 49, is the most popular and durable star in his peer group. But is that sufficient to break into Tamil Nadu politics? Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, two icons of Tamil cinema, could not. The impression that cinema can be a launch pad for a career in Tamil politics is drawn from the popularity enjoyed by MG Ramachandran (MGR) and J Jayalalithaa. However, MGR was associated with the Dravidian Movement before he entered politics. Jayalalithaa inherited the legacy of MGR after having worked with the AIADMK in many capacities, including as its propaganda secretary. Vijayakanth, another popular star, floated the DMDK and enjoyed brief success.

MK Stalin and Edappadi Palaniswami may not have the charisma of Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa as leaders of the DMK and AIADMK respectively, and voters may be welcoming of new faces. But voters in Tamil Nadu are as transactional as voters everywhere — they will reward politicians who have a message and are willing to do the hard grind of party-building. Vijay will need more than his screen appeal to make a mark in Tamil politics.

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