There were no surprises on Sunday when VCK announced its candidates for the Lok Sabha Elections. Party chief Thol Thirumavalavan will contest from Chidambaram while VCK General Secretary Ravikumar will contest from Villupuram. Interestingly, VCK has announced that Thirumavalavan will contest on an independent symbol while Ravikumar will contest on the DMK’s rising sun symbol.
Thirumavalavan will be taking on the AIADMK, which is yet to announce the candidate for Chidambaram, which is a reserved constituency. Ravikumar, meanwhile, will square off against the PMK in Villupuram, which is also a reserved constituency. The VCK, a Dalit party, is part of the Madhacharbatra Murpokku Kootani (Secular Progressive Alliance), which comprises of the DMK, Congress and other smaller parties for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
Speaking to TNM, Ravikumar explained why they had chosen to contest on different symbols. “Thirumavalavan had won in 2009 under an independent symbol. He is a star candidate and he can polarize votes in the constituencies. He is well known to the people in the constituency, as he has contested three times earlier. That’s why he is contesting once again on an independent symbol,” says Ravikumar, who adds, “This is not so in my case. I am a stranger in Villupuram and after a long discussion with the party cadre, we decided to contest on DMK’s symbol.”
The DMK had at the time of seat sharing negotiations urged parties like the VCK and Vaiko's MDMK to contest on its rising sun symbol, given that the two parties did not have a symbol of their own.
When asked how he fared his chances against the PMK, Ravikumar says, “Villupuram is an AIADMK base. They won’t prefer to vote for a PMK candidate. So, we think our chances are high.”
Thol Thirumavalavan became a first-time MP in 2009 after he won from the Chidambaram Parliamentary constituency. The VCK was then a part of the UPA alliance led by the Congress and included the DMK as well. He, however, went on to lose the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections to the AIADMK by a huge margin of over 1 lakh votes. The VCK was then a part of the DMK alliance. Prior to 2009, the Dalit leader had contested unsuccessfully from Chidambaram in 1999.
The VCK Chief had also contested from Kattumannarkoil reserved constituency in Cuddalore district in the 2016 Assembly Elections as part of the People’s Welfare Front. He, however, lost to the AIADMK’s N Murugamaran by a wafer-thin margin of 87 votes.
Ravikumar is a former MLA and was elected to the Kattumannarkoil constituency in 2006. He is a writer, and poet, who has a number of literary works to his name including Venomous Touch: Notes on Caste, Culture and Politics. He unsuccessfully contested from the Vanur constituency in Villupuram district in the 2016 Assembly Elections, losing to the AIADMK’s M Chakrapani.
In 2018, Ravikumar was given police protection in Tamil Nadu following threats to his life by right-wing groups. Ravikumar was informed of the threat to his life by the Tamil Nadu state Intelligence Bureau following the interrogation of the accused in the killing of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh.
The Lok Sabha Elections to the 39 constituencies in Tamil Nadu will be held on April 18.