The Prime Minister’s remarks are significant in the scramble for alliances ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

At Madurai meeting PM Modi woos Devendra Kula VellalarsFile image/ PTI
news Politics Sunday, January 27, 2019 - 16:21

Even as there are murmurs that the Bharatiya Janata Party is scrambling to cobble together an alliance in Tamil Nadu ahead of the 2019 General Elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi requested the AIADMK government in the state to look into the issues of the DVK community at a public meeting in Madurai. The Prime Minister, who was there to lay the foundation stone for the upcoming for the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the district said that he was sensitive to the demands of the community.

“Friends, I want to talk to you about one more issue. This is relating to the Devendra Kula Vellalar community and ensuring justice as well as opportunity for them. The issue came to me and I am fully sensitive to their demands. And you would be happy to know that there is significant progress with regard to it. I assure the community that justice will be done. This is a subject about social harmony and we are committed for justice for all,” he said in a rally at the Mandela Nagar Ground in the presence of Tamil Nadu BJP chief Tamilisai Soundararajan, Union Minister for State Pon Radhakrishnan, BJP National General Secretary Muralidhar Rao, Karnataka BJP MLA CT Ravi, among others.

However, providing more context to the issue that PM Modi was talking about, his translator at the event and the BJP's National Secretary H Raja speaking on behalf of the PM said, "Devendra Kula Vellalar community members met me (Modi). They explained to me the research about their people and their livelihoods and asked for justice. I have asked the SC/ST Commission and the state government to review this. I request the state government to take appropriate action with regard to this and deliver justice to this community.”

In August 2015, BJP President Amit Shah 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 met Prime Minister Modi in September 2015, seeking to rename their community.

Devendra Kula Vellalar, or Pallar, are part of the Scheduled Caste List in Tamil Nadu. However, some people in the community, led by leader Dr K Krishnasamy of the Puthiya Tamizhagam party, have demanded that Devendra Kula Vellalar be removed from the SC list, claiming that this is an imposed identity. “Devendra Kula Vellalar have been fighting to remove the SC tag from ourselves. We are wetland agriculturalists, and not manual scavengers,” Dr Krishnasamy had told TNM earlier.

Ahead of the 2019 parliamentary elections where the BJP is seeking to increase its seat-share in the state, PM Modi’s remarks assume significance especially as the national party hopes to stitch together an alliance in the state. Puthiya Tamizhagam, the whose influences lies in southern Tamil Nadu, is reported to be in consideration for caste votes in the region. This, in addition to the DMDK and PMK who are touted to ally with the BJP's alliance in the state.