Dalit card cost DMK OBC vote bank

By R. Ilangovan

MADURAI, MAY 14. The DMK has suffered a major erosion of its OBC (caste Hindu) votes because of its `pro-Dalit stance' in almost all Assembly segments in the southern districts.

The `social aversion' on the part of DMK candidates, mostly belonging to Mukkulathors and other OBCs, to be identified with Dalit leaders and cadres, has made the DMK an `untouchable' among its own rank and file. The DMK candidates, while

nonchalantly eyeing the Dalit votebank, were, however, hesitant to share a platform with local Dalit leaders during the campaign in many villages and towns.

When the caste Hindu leaders in most of the villages issued an unwritten `diktat' that no caste Hindu, irrespective of party affiliations, vote for candidates of `Dalit and

Dalit-friendly parties,' it was adhered to religiously. ``After the elections, we have to enter the villages,'' pointed out a DMK candidate in Sivaganga district during the campaign itself. He carefully avoided the Dalit habitations during campaign.

While the DMK candidates received a major chunk of Dalit votes in many segments, they, however, were not able to realise the party's traditional OBC votes, thanks to its `untouchability' card. In fact, the two major Dalit sub-sects, Pallars and Parayars, dedicatedly voted for the DMK combine in almost all constituencies down south. ``But local DMK leaders, in most of the segments, let us down badly,'' accuses a DPI functionary at Samayanallur.

This biased caste pattern has reflected decisively in quite a few segments in Madurai, Virudhunagar, Theni, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts. The Puthiya Thamizhagam (PT) candidate in Sedapatti, Mr. P. V. Baktavatchalam, a non-Dalit, lost to the AIADMK, primarily because of the lukewarm cooperation he received from the DMK cadres.

While the entire Dalit mass of about 20,000 in a cluster of villages in the Sedapatti block took the decision to vote for the PT's non-Dalit candidate, the DMK members silently kept away from the campaign. In fact, a few prominent DMK members of Sedapatti tore their membership cards in a huff, when the seat was allotted to the PT. In the same manner, the DPI lost the Samayanallur (Res) segment where almost all local DMK seniors, along with cadres, left the constituency to work either at Melur where Mr. S. Selvaraj, Minister in the DMK Government, contested or to nearby Sholavandan. The DPI candidate, Ms. Kasthuri, daughter of the former Minister and freedom fighter, Kakkan, had to carry on the campaign singlehandedly.

The overwhelming voting by Dalits of Melavalavu and other villages in Melur failed to shore up the fortunes of Mr. Selvaraj, a Dalit Minister.

The only `visible' beneficiary of the Dalit votebank, however, is Mr. K. K. S. S. R. Ramachandran in Sattur in Virudhunagar district. Mr. Ramachandran, one of the two DMK candidates who survived the `Amma wave' down south, received `solid voting' thanks to the Dalits of Pathinettupatti surrounding Sattur.

The DMK's gamble with the Dalit card has failed, thanks to the sharp polarisation of Dalits and non- Dalits, where the party affiliations became irrelevant.

Referred by: Mukundan CM
Published on: May 16, 2001
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