It's 'vote your caste' in Tamil Nadu
Chennai, April 1 : Caste has taken centrestage at the battle for the Tamil Nadu assembly polls due for May 10, with powerful warlords owing allegaiance to particular community siding either the AIADMK-led secular front or the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) headed by the ruling DMK.
Pattali Makkal Katchi leader S. Ramadoss, a veteran of many a power game for the Vanniya community from his days as leader of the Vanniyar Sangama which later took the avatar of the PMK, is firmly entrenched in the AIADMK front, snapping his ties with the NDA recently.
The AIADMK is also being backed by another party, the Thevar Peraval, which claims to represent the powerful Thevar community.
The Dalit Panthers of India, an outfit of the Parayars promoted by R. Thirumavalavan which had a long history of locking up in caste battels with the Vanniyars in the state's northern belt, has pitched its camp at the DMK-led front.
The Pallar community being represented by the Puthiya Thamizhagam led by Dr. S. Krishnasamy, who rose to fame by taking the cause of the Dalits after the Kodiyankulam atrocities, is also with the DMK-led front. The Puthiya Thamizhagam and the Thevars were key players in the caste clashes in the south a few years ago.
Not to be outdone by Dr. Krishnaswamy's antics, AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalitha has fielded another warlord, John Pandyan, whose Tamil Makkal Katchi claims to represent a section of the Pallar community.
The Pandyan has vowed to "finish Dr. Krishnaswamy where ever he contests".
The Yadavas, who do not exercise much political clout in Tamil Nadu, have huddled under the newly formed Makkal Tamil Desam led by former AIADMK minister S. Kannappan, and teamed up with the DMK.
Kannappan's compatriot, A. C. Shanamugam, who had his innings in the Lok Sabha during the MGR era, is floating the new party in a bid to ensure justice for the Mudaliyar community. After a long baggling for more number of seats with the DMK, he is now thinking of a lonely fight unless of course DMK President M. Karunanidhi agrees to the demand and accommodates the party.
Enranged by the presence of the "communal" BJP is the DMK-led front, most mulsim parties are with the AIADMK-led front. They include the Indian National League and the Indian Union Muslim League.
Not to be outsmarted by Jayalalitha's patronishing the Muslim parties, Karunanidhi has taken under his wings, the Muslim Aikya Jamaat headed by J. M. Haroon who represents the TMC in the current assembly.
A redeeming feature in the caste-ridden battle is the generally secular credentials of the mainline parties - DMK, AIADMK, left parties, Congress, Tamil Manila Congress and the MDMK, which found itself pushed out of the NDA yesterday. No particular caste has dominance over any of these parties. UNI