DMDK, PMK fight over Vanniar votes

The heartland of the backward Vanniar community of Northern and Western Tamil Nadu will see DMDK and PMK slug it out for electoral honours in the April 13 polls.

Vellore (TN): The heartland of the backward
Vanniar community of Northern and Western Tamil Nadu will see
DMDK and PMK slug it out for electoral honours in the April 13

The community, which accounts for over 35 per cent of the
population, was once considered PMK`s vote bank. But the
scenario changed after advent of DMDK, floated by actor
politician Vijaykant, who weaned away Vanniar youth from PMK.

In the last assembly and Lok Sabha polls, DMDK had
garnered a substantial vote bank in this area, leading to
defeat of all PMK nominees. PMK, which contested the elections
in the company of the AIADMK, has now aligned with ruling DMK.

Though DMDK and PMK will contest directly only in six
constituencies -- in north and west, the increasing percentage
of votes DMDK has got in the last two polls points to a tough
fight in the Vanniar-dominated constituencies.

Despite the popular PMK slogan of `Vanniar vottu
anniyarku a lla` (Vanniars will not vote for candidates of
other castes), Vijaykant`s maiden win over a PMK candidate
from Vridhachalam in the 2006 polls, where Vanniars and
Adi-Dravidars are predominant, indicate DMDK is eating into
PMK`s vote bank.

Interestingly, the same PMK candidate who lost to
Vijaykant in 2006 had triumphed in the previous assembly polls
against a DMK candidate in 2001. This shows how DMDK has
hijacked the vote base in the Vanniar stronghold since 2006.

Vijaykant`s contest from Rishivandhiyam, also in north,
this time shows DMDK`s confidence in countering PMK`s
influence in the region. Rishivandhiyam voters have favoured a
Congress candidate which had PMK in its alliance in the last
two elections.

While DMK has allotted 26 of the total of 31 seats to PMK
in the northern and western regions, K Malaichamy, former MP
of AIADMK asserts, "We (AIADMK) are very strong in the west
and we have DMDK in the north." DMDK contests most of its 41
seats from northern and western segments.

The DMDK that took off in 2005, secured 8.38 per cent and
10.09 per cent vote share in 2006 assembly and 2009 Lok Sabha
polls respectively, while PMK has been on the winning alliance
in the last two assembly elections.

The fact that DMDK has bagged 41 seats from the AIADMK
alliance while long-term AIADMK ally MDMK was virtually shown
the door shows how it has grown in strength in the last five
years and has become a political force to reckon with.

On the other side, PMK was inducted into the DMK alliance
in a similar manner even after it ruffled feathers with the
ruling party between the assembly polls. Moreover, the DMK
completing the seat-sharing exercise with PMK long before it
did with Congress displays DMK`s expectations from the PMK.

With the issues in the assembly polls being more local,
snatching the sentiments in the Vanniar heartland from each
other will be the contesting points between PMK and DMDK. At
least largely for that reason alone both parties seem to have
found a place in their respective alliances.

Vanniar community, right from the first general elections
in 1952, had been returning its caste members to the assembly
and Parliament.

The late S S Ramaswamy Padayachi, a prominent leader of
the Vanniar community, along with late Manikavelu Naicker
floated the Common Wheel party in 1952, which bagged a
sizeable number of seats in the belt, denying an absolute
majority to the Congress in the composite Madras State.

Even well-known newspaper magnate late Ramnath Goenka, as
a Congress candidate, had to toil against little known
Thirukural Munusamy at Tindivanam of the Common Wheel party to
enter the Lok Sabha.

Late C Rajagoplachary, who was sworn in as Chief Minister
after the then assembly polls, negotiated a deal with both
leaders to `create` majority for Congress in the house.


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