Chennai: Actor Vishal Krishna, popularly known by his first name, filed nomination papers today to contest by-elections for Tamil Nadu's RK Nagar assembly seat, asserting that he was in no way trying to race ahead of his seniors in the industry, mega stars Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, to launch a political career. The actor's decision to contest has turned what is seen as a big prestige battle for ruling party AIADMK into a tough four-cornered contest.
Vishal, 40, has been quoted as saying that he is inspired by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who tweeted today, "Welcome @VishalKOfficial. Ur entry in politics will inspire many youngsters. Lets meet up when u come to Del(hi) next."
"It's so sweet of him," a thrilled Vishal told NDTV. "@ArvindKejriwal Sir. The Change is inevitable & more youngsters must join Politics to make our Country a global powerhouse," the actor replied on Twitter.
RK Nagar in Chennai was the assembly constituency of the AIADMK's powerful leader J Jayalalithaa, who died as chief minister in December last year. It is vital for the AIADMK, seemingly rudderless since Ms Jayalalithaa died, to establish that Chief Minister E Palaniswami and his team are in control. The party has fielded a senior leader, E Madhusudanan, who has held the seat before and has influence among Telugu people who have a sizeable presence in RK Nagar. Vishal's Andhra roots could split AIADMK's votes of Telegu-speaking people in the constituency, which could improve the prospects of the DMK or even those of sidelined AIADMK leader TTV Dhinakaran.
"I'm not helping Dhinakaran or DMK by contesting," said Vishal, whose entry is being seem as threat to the AIADMK. "Nothing has changed in RK Nagar since April, that's why I'm contesting. I want to be the voice of RK Nagar. I want to help people. When youngsters decide on something, nothing can stop them," the actor said.
Vishal, who heads the South Indian Film Artistes' Association and the Film Producers' Council, is contesting as an independent candidate and has said that if elected, "People should tell us what they want and I will do it."
The AIADMK is already up against its sidelined leader TTV Dhinakaran, and the DMK's Marudhu Ganesh, an RK Nagar local who is seen by many as the frontrunner for the seat in the December 21 election.
Mr Dhinakaran was evicted along with his aunt VK Sasikala, in jail in a corruption case, as a result of the AIADMK's two factions led by the Chief Minister and former CM O Panneerselvam merging in August this year. Mr Dhinakaran and Ms Sasikala have challenged that decision and claim to lead the real AIADMK, though their support in the party is dwindling.
With the Election Commission recognising the united AIADMK as the "real" party and allotting its use of the famous two-leaves symbol, Mr Dhinakaran is contesting as an independent.
While the BJP has fielded a candidate too, the Left parties and the MDMK are supporting the DMK, which wants to win RK Nagar to deliver a big psychological blow to the AIADMK and support its claim that the ruling party has lost popular support after the death of Ms Jayalalithaa only months after she led her party to a big win in assembly elections last year.
The RK Nagar by-election was to be held in April this year, but was cancelled amid allegations of voters being bribed. At that time then, Mr Dhinakaran was the AIADMK's official candidate and Mr Madhusudanan was the rebel, fielded by the O Panneerselvam camp.