DMK party leaders continue to pay homage to the firebrand leader from the community- Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar.

AIADMKs Thevar advantage Can the DMK make in-roads into the communitys vote bankImage: YouTube.com
news Analysis Monday, April 18, 2016 - 09:47

Although sheltered under the larger umbrella of the Dravidian movement, Tamil Nadu politics has always seen a diverse caste angle at play. And it is this caste divide that allows for the formation of numerous tinier political outfits like Karuna’s Mukkulathor Pulipadai or the erstwhile actor Kathik’s Ahila Indhiya Naadalum Makkal Katchi (AINMK).

While these parties might not be magnanimous in size, they have a definitive role to play in the vote bank of the bigger parties in the state. In fact, actor Karthik’s AINMK even cut through AIADMK’s Thevar vote bank, a major stronghold of the latter, in the 2006 assembly polls. In 2011, though Karthik offered support to AIADMK, the party’s indecisive stand of seat-sharing ‘forced the former out of the alliance’.

AIADMK is believed to have always had a strong clutch over the Mukkulathor community, often simply referred to as Thevars. The AIADMK’s affliation of the Thevar community formulated somewhere in 2001, when the younger generations developed a sense of resentment to the then-DMK government for denying them opportunities on the grounds of reservation norms. A major share of this support is also attributed to the presence of Jayalalithaa’s close aide Sasikala, who hails from the community.

The Thevars form a significant portion of voters in Madurai, Sivagangai, Dindugul, Theni and Tirunelveli districts. While Karthik’s AINMK announced the formation of a six-party alliance ‘Vidiyal’ last Saturday, AIADMK’s move to give a party ticket to actor Karunas’ Mukkulathor Pulipadai can be seen as an effort to mobilize further support among the community. Karunas will be contesting under the AIADMK ‘two leaves’ symbol from Thiruvadanai.

Meanwhile, the DMK camp appears glum with regard to garnering Thevar support. The Thevar-dominated southern districts have always swayed in favour of AIADMK, while the west and northern belt have preferred DMK. Furthermore, with Alagiri ousted from Madurai, the party has further lost whatever brawn power it had in the city.

This however, does not mean that DMK does not have Thevar representation within their ranks. 14 out of 60 district secretaries are from the Thevar community, which is the highest percentage of representation any caste has in the party. Moreover, party honchos like TR Baalu also hail from this caste.

Party head Karunanidhi has left no stone unturned in pursuit of support from the community in the past. After ascending to power in 1990s, he renamed the district of Madurai as ‘Pasupon Thevar Thirumaganar’ distirct, in honor of a prominent leader from the community. This move, however backfired, when in 1997, the same Thevar community rioted against the renaming of Villupuram after a Dalit leader.

Nevertheless, the slight from the community and their obvious preference to the rival has not stopped DMK in their efforts. Party leaders continue to pay homage to the firebrand leader from the community- Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar on his birth and death anniversary, much like their contemporaries. Efforts to unveil statues and rename airports after the Thevar scion have been attempted numerous times, in vain.

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