Vijayakanth's half-brother Balraj, his wife Venkatalakshmi and their son Muthu are now part of AIADMK after being deserted by the DMDK chief
It is the day of Goddess Meenakshi’s wedding. The small lanes around her abode in Madurai are busy as ever before. On one corner of the road near the East tower of the temple is an unusual crowd with tricolour-Yellow, red and black coloured-flags in their hands. The crowd turns enthusiastic as a tempo traveller fitted with speakers stops at the road corner. A woman in her late 40s gently emerges out. Dressed in a green saree with vermilion on her forehead and jasmine flowers on her well combed hair, she looks a typical south Indian woman.
She is Premalatha Vijayakant, the woman behind DMDK founder leader Vijayakant. She holds forth, reminding the masses of her husband’s superior qualities and how he would be the people’s chief minister if elected to power. Naan intha Maduraiyin Marumagal (I am the daughter-in-law of this Madurai). It was only after my husband proved successful in his role as Chokkar (Lord Shiva) we got married. Such is my connection with Madurai and Goddess Meenakshi.” The crowd around her is all in cheers, shouting, “Captain, captain”.
But Premalatha’s inspiring speech touching the people of Madurai and her emotional connections with them do not impress a small family living in penury in the temple town. A few kilometers from the Meenakshi shrine, an eerie silence prevails at the small lane, named after Poet Thiruvalluvar who spoke in length in his verses about family and the way of living. The few men outside a small tea shop at the street corner know Vijayakant and Premalatha, but not the former’s half-brother Balraj Alagarsami Naidu and his wife Venkatalakshmi who live in their locality.
The old two-storeyed building at the end of the lane is hazily lit. A few plastic tubs filled with water, talk about the water scarcity. A narrow stair case leads to the one room house on the first floor covered with an asbestos sheet. An unbearable stink emanates from near the door step where a skinny woman is seen lying on a single plastic wire cot. The smell of medicines and antiseptics spreads the air as we enter the small dingy house. Vaanga Vaanga (welcome) says 44-year-old Venkatalakshmi with a smiling face.
Balraj, Venkatalakshmi and their 22-year-old son Muthu are now part of the ruling AIADMK. Venkatalakshmi is in fact, one of the firebrand speakers in Madurai for Jayalalithaa’s party. She is a VIP in the election rallies. “We have been voting for the AIADMK since 1972,” say the couple.
Ask her why she doesn’t campaign for her brother-in-law Vijayakant’s DMDK, her reply comes without any second thought, “How do you expect a person, who had deserted his own family, to serve the people as a chief minister?”
Balraj, an electrician by profession, has been struggling for years to make ends meet. His son Muthu works as a collection agent with private telecom company. Muthu has done a diploma in electrical and electronics. Financial constraints, he says, did not allow him to pursue his studies further. His efforts to get an admission in Vijayakant’s popular Andal Alagar college in Chennai also went in vain. “They said by giving me a seat they would lose Rs 5 lakhs,” says Muthu.
Balraj minces words in his mouth as he tries to explain to THE WEEK how they were deserted by his brother Vijayakant and his wife Premalatha. He stammers as he talks. “We are eight siblings. My father Alagarsami had two wives. He was born to my father’s elder wife. But it was my mother who brought him and his three siblings up,” says a grief stricken Balraj. He has a long tale to narrate as to how the family once owned wealthy properties and rice mills in Madurai. “it is all with my brother now. One of our sisters is a doctor here. One sister is in Theni. She is a daily wage labour in a mill there,” he says.
“How do you expect a person, who deserted his own family, to serve the people as a chief minister?,” asks Venkatalakshmi
Vijayakant is now the People’s Welfare Front's chief minister candidate, contesting from the Ulundurpet constituency. He heads the third front which Vaiko’s MDMK, Thol Thirumavalavan’s VCK, G.K. Vasan’s TMC and the two left parties are part of.
Balraj reveals that it was Premalatha who stopped them from joining his brother’s party. In 2005 when DMDK was launched amidst a big fanfare in Madurai, Balraj's family had to wait for hours in front of the public rally venue. “We weren’t allowed to enter,” says Balraj.
However, the couple’s life hasn’t improved even after joining the AIADMK in 2014. “We swear by Amma and her policies,” says Venkatalakshmi who had spoken in two public meetings of the party. She usually takes on the DMDK’s star couple in every meeting. “We are for Amma. She will definitely come to know about us and help us one day.” But Venkatalakshmi’s woos doesn’t end there. Being Vijayakant’s relative also plays havoc in her life. She had lost her two previous jobs just because she is the wife of Vijayakant's brother. “If I go for any job, people ask me, why I need a job when my brother-in-law is the opposition leader and a celebrity,” she says.
“Premalatha is too negative in her campaign. They will not win,” says Venkatalakshmi. “She cannot match Amma even if she tries hard,” she adds with a sarcastic smile on her face. Balraj and Venkatalakkshmi have all hopes pinned on their leader Amma. But their son Muthu has lost all hopes. “Beyond this street, nobody in Madurai knows that my father is Vijayakant’s brother and we are with AIADMK,” he tells THE WEEK.
Be it DMDK or AIADMK, with whomever he is, Balraj’s struggles to make the ends meet doesn’t seem to end.