Caste-based parties lose ground in Tamil Nadu

Caste-based parties lose ground in Tamil Nadu

For Tamil Nadu, the real election battleground is in the northern belt of the state, especially where Vanniyars and Dalits are deciding the fate of the political parties.

 The result of the battle is decided on the outcome of these northern regions especially in Villupuram, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Dharmapuri, Salem and Krishnagiri districts, which comprise more than 50 Assembly constituencies.

Unlike the southern districts of Tamil Nadu where the AIADMK front appears to have an edge, or the central region and coastal constituencies (where the results could be mixed and area-specific), the Vanniyar belt and Dalit dominated areas provide a confusing electoral picture for the May 16 Assembly elections after it was surveyed.

Vanniyars and Dalits, who constitute about 40% of the total Tamil Nadu population, still select only the candidates from their community.

Till 2001, Vanniyar-based Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Vidhuthalai Chiruthagal Katchi (VCK), a pro-Dalit party, played determining roles. It was quite evident that the AIADMK swept the Vanniyar belt in alliance with the PMK in 1998 and then the caste-based party teamed up with the DMK for a similar result in 1999.

However, observers feel the PMK and the VCK this time, are unlikely to get a comfortable majority projected by several opinion polls since both the parties were not allied with Dravidian majors — the AIADMK and the DMK.

“Except for PMK chief minister candidate Anbumani Ramados and VCK chief Thol Thirumavalavan, both the parties did a big mistake of not aligning with either DMK or AIADMK,” S Venkatesan, a noted political analyst told DH.

Echoing similar views of Venkatesan, Tamil Nadu Vanniyar Sangam member K Shankar said: “We expect only a few seats this time. The AIADMK and the DMK have nominated Vanniyar caste candidates in western region that has made very difficult for the PMK to make it inroads. The votes will be scattered, which is a huge disadvantage for the PMK.”

On the other hand, a VCK senior party functionary, Murugesan, felt that his party “wrongly” allied with Vijayakanth’s DMDK-People Welfare Front (PWF), which is unlikely to perform well.

In addition, all the opinion polls conducted by several groups in Tamil Nadu give the edge either to the AIADMK or the DMK.

All the surveys also suggest that the DMDK-PWF combine will get only between 10 and 15 seats out of the total 234. The findings further said that the PMK is expected to win only 3 or 4 seats.

“How long are we going to ally with the PMK and the VCK to bank on caste votes. We have fielded prospective candidates, who not only belong to dominant castes but also hail from the constituencies they are contesting,” K Murugesan, a senior DMK functionary said.

“The AIADMK candidate in Dharmapuri belongs to my Vanniyar caste and therefore I will give a chance to him this time,” Kamakshi, a flower vendor in Dharmapuri said.

Interestingly, the first time voters in the caste-dominated western belt said that they are not looking at the caste of the candidates but want them to fulfil their promises, especially in the education sector.

“We want a candidate who visits the constituency frequently and look after the people’s issues,” S Shankar, a final year B.Com student from Krishnagiri area said.

The electoral situation in 2016, especially in the western region of Tamil Nadu is complicated with the PMK and the VCK losing their ground and the AIADMK and the DMK also defining themselves in juxtaposition with Vanniyars and Dalits.

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