The ruling AIADMK announced its poll pact with Dr K Krishnaswamy's Puthiya Tamilagam party on Saturday ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. In a meeting at the AIADMK headquarters in Chennai's Royapettah, AIADMK Coordinator and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam announced that the AIADMK was entering into an alliance with Puthiya Tamilagam.
"According to the agreement entered into today, it has been decided that Puthiya Tamilagam would be provided with one Lok Sabha seat under the AIADMK-led alliance. In 2019's bye-polls for the 21 vacant legislative assembly constituencies in the state, it has been decided that Puthiya Tamilagam would lend its full support to candidates of the AIADMK," announced Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam. This is the fourth party in the AIADMK-BJP alliance along with S Ramadoss’ Pattali Makkal Katchi. The party is also reportedly in talks with Vijayakanth’s DMDK.
Speaking at the event, Krishnaswamy said, "I am happy to announce that Puthiya Tamilagam has entered into a grand, winning alliance led by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah at the national level and Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami and dear brother O Panneerselvam at the state level."
Krishnaswamy also said that Puthiya Tamilagam would contest on its own party symbol in the Lok Sabha polls. While Krishnaswamy himself is expected to contest on the ticket, he added that the constituency would be announced shortly, even as the Deputy Chief Minister attempted to move him away from media persons asking questions of the duo.
The Puthiya Tamilagam party, founded in 1997, primarily seeks to protect the rights of the Devendra Kula Vellalar community in the state. Devendra Kula Vellalar, or Pallar, are part of the Scheduled Caste List in Tamil Nadu. However, many people in the community, led by leader Dr K Krishnasamy, have demanded that Devendra Kula Vellars be removed from the SC list, claiming that this is an ‘imposed identity’.
The party has oscillated between going with the AIADMK and DMK in the past. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the party chose to go with AIADMK's arch rival, the DMK and came a cropper in the one seat that was allotted to it. The party had earlier joined hands with former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's AIADMK in 2011 for the state assembly elections, winning two of four seats.
The 2019 alliance is suspected to have been motivated partly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to raise the issue of the Devendra Kula Vellalar community at BJP’s public rally in Madurai this year.
In August 2015, BJP President Amit Shah had supported the demand from some sections of the Devendra Kula Vellalars to recognise them as a distinct sub-sect under the Most Backward Class category at a public meeting in Madurai. Following this, a delegation of community members had met Prime Minister Modi in September 2015, seeking to rename their community.
At a public rally in January this year, the prime minister assured the community that he was sensitive to their demands and requested the state government and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes to review the matter.