Over the last week, several WhatsApp forwards and news reports have pointed to a possibility of an alliance between the DMK and PMK ahead of the Assembly Elections in Tamil Nadu next year. This in turn, reports said, will force the Congress and VCK to form another alliance. When TNM spoke to sources in these parties, however, leaders maintained that no alliance was set in stone and the reports themselves are an effort to weaken the alliances that the DMK has with the Congress and the VCK.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, multiple sources confirmed that the PMK had indeed spoken to DMK leaders about the possibility of an alliance. According to AIADMK sources, the PMK had demanded 35 seats from the DMK out of the 234 constituencies in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. The PMK has asked for 50 seats from its present ally the AIADMK and a cabinet position.
Sources in the DMK and AIADMK, however, are skeptical that an alliance could happen between the opposition party and PMK. "There have been talks with PMK but it is too early to say anything definitively," says a DMK source. "The DMK chief has already pointed out that efforts are underway to create tensions and weaken our ties with possible alliance partners. Plus, after Tuesday's display of violence by the PMK, we are not sure an alliance is a wise choice," he adds.
The PMK on Tuesday had led a protest in Chennai demanding 20% reservation for the Vanniyar community (which belongs to the Most Backward Community category) in education and employment in the state. Following this, the AIADMK ordered for a caste census for equitable distribution of benefits to all communities in Tamil Nadu.
A VCK leader, meanwhile, points out that there is simply no space to accommodate the PMK.
"The DMK will want to contest in at least 180 seats to ensure they form a majority government. The remaining 50 odd seats will already have to be divided between 10 alliance partners they are looking at for Assembly Elections. Bringing the PMK in, will not make sense in this context," he explains. "They need the VCK in their alliance as we command Dalit votes in north Tamil Nadu. Without us, they cannot be a powerful force there," he insists.
The VCK leader further alleges that 'rumours' of a DMK-PMK alliance is being spread to alienate Dalit voters from the DMK. "This is a rumour being propagated by the BJP to break the confidence of the VCK cadre," he alleges. "They think that if we move away from the DMK, they will lose a significant percentage of Dalit votes."
The PMK and VCK are political rivals, mainly due to the communities they represent. In North Tamil Nadu, where both parties have support, the PMK is the voice of the Vanniyars, while the VCK is a party that works for Scheduled Caste communities. Often, the dominant Vanniyar community has been accused of carrying caste attacks and discriminating against the Dalit community. PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss was booked for allegedly inciting caste enmity in 2014.
The PMK in the past has been labelled opportunistic over its choice of alliance. For instance, the party which had come down hard on the AIADMK till last year, had chosen to ally with the ruling party for the Lok Sabha Elections. This after its chief, S Ramadoss called the AIADMK corrupt multiple times on public platforms.
Moreover, the party which represents the interest of Vanniyars, who constitute 25% of the state's population, has been constantly jumping ship over the last two decades. In 2001, they allied with the AIADMK and, in 2006 with the DMK. In 2011, meanwhile, the alliance with DMK included the VCK and PMK and the coalition faced an electoral defeat. In 2016, when PMK decided to fight elections alone, it did not manage to win even a single seat.