The DMK swept the rural local body polls in nine districts of Tamil Nadu by winning 138 out of the 140 seats in the district panchayat unions, leaving the opposition AIADMK with just two seats.
In the gram panchayat unions too, the DMK stamped its authority by winning more than 1,000 out of the 1,381 seats in the nine districts. The AIADMK won 200 seats in the panchayat union wards.
However, the most-watched result in the rural local body polls was the victory notched by the fans' association of Tamil movie superstar Vijay, who in popularity rating is second only to megastar Rajinikanth.
The Vijay fans' association under the banner of All Indian Thalapathy Vijay Makkal Iyyakam (AITVMI) contested in 169 panchayat union seats, winning 115 of them.
This was the first time that Vijay allowed his fans to use his photo and the flag of the fans' association to contest the polls. He had earlier filed a case against 11 persons, including his father S. Chandrashekhar and mother Sobha Shekhar, for trying to use his name for contesting elections. But he later allowed his fans' association to contest the polls.
Elections were held for 27,003 posts, including 140 district panchayat union members, 1,381 panchayat union ward members, 2,901 village panchayat presidents, and 22,581 village panchayat ward councillors.
While the DMK and its allies swept the polls, the AIADMK and its allies had to be content with a few seats. In the rural local body polls, the AIADMK ally, PMK, had contested on its own and won only 44 gram panchayat union seats and drew a blank in the district panchayat unions. The BJP got eight seats in panchayat unions, again not getting any seat in the district panchayat unions.
The victory of AITVMI becomes all more interesting as many of the established political parties were relegated by the people of the state in the rural local body polls.
During the run-up to the 2021 Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Vijay had said in an open statement, "I inform my fans and the public that there is no relation whatsoever between the political party that my father had started and me, directly or indirectly."
Political observers were of the opinion that Vijay was testing the waters silently. And now in the panchayat union polls, his fans' association contested as Independent candidates and recorded massive wins.
This thumping victory is significant given the fact that the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), the political outfit floated by another superstar, Kamal Haasan, drew a blank in the rural local body polls. The party could not win a single seat even in the panchayat union polls.
The Naam Thamizhar Katchi (NTK) floated by actor-director Seeman also drew a blank in the rural local body polls.
The DMDK of actor-turned-politician Vijaykant also had to lick its wounds, getting only a single seat in the panchayat union polls.
The electoral victory of Vijay fans' association is considered significant as Tamil politics is devoid of stalwarts after the passing away of K. Karunanidhi and J. Jayalalithaa, except for the present Chief Minister, M.K. Stalin.
While O. Panneerselvam (OPS) and E.K. Palaniswami (EPS) are leaders in their own ways, they don't have a pan Tamil Nadu appeal and their strengths are limited to their respective bastions.
OPS is mainly confined to south Tamil Nadu, while EPS has his strength in western Tamil Nadu, Salem district to be precise. The two leaders have their strengths among their respective communities, with OPS a strong Thevar leader while EPS a Goundar leader.
This vacuum will end if Vijay enters the Tamil political arena, as Tamil politics and tinsel world have always been interlinked, right from the days of C.N. Annadurai, M.G. Ramachandran, Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, all top performers in the movie world, either as actors or writers.
With a huge fan following and a boy-next-door image, Vijay is known to have his own opinion on different issues. He will definitely have a major say in Tamil politics in the days to come.
The victory of his fan club members in the panchayat union elections has given a clear message to Vijay that he has a support base which is more than enough for him to plunge into the field of politics.
While Vijay and his close associates like former Congress MLA Anand deny any involvement of the 'Thalapathy' in politics, the victory in the panchayat unions will certainly catapult him to the big political league of Tamil Nadu.
As the DMK is on a roller-coaster ride after its victory in the 2021 Assembly elections and the thumping win in the rural local body polls, the principal opposition AIADMK is groping in the dark, looking rudderless. However, the politics of Tamil Nadu has always seen ups and downs. In this context, a superstar like Vijay entering the political scenario in Tamil Nadu is likely to fetch excellent results.
C. Rajeev, Director, Centre for Policy and Development Studies, a think-tank based out of Chennai, told IANS, "These are early days to predict the course of Tamil politics, but it is certain that Vijay has tested waters and that he will definitely be a force to reckon with. The results of the rural local body polls have indeed given him the much-needed thrust to jump into the major political platform.
"With the vacuum created by the demise of Jayalalithaa still haunting the AIADMK, Rajinikanth shying out, and Kamal Haasan bringing in no difference, Vijay is the person to watch out for. It is to be seen as to how he portrays himself. However, it is almost certain that he will be an indispensable actor in the game of politics."