The DMK has set about reclaiming the support of Muslim parties in Tamil Nadu, with Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK) leader M K Jawahirullah, a loyalist of AIADMK CM Jayalalithaa until last week, meeting M K Stalin on Saturday to declare his support for the DMK alliance. And on Saturday evening, the SDPI became another Muslim party to declare its support to the DMK. The alliance now has three Muslim partners, the Indian Union Muslim League being an old DMK ally.
Jawahirullah joined the DMK camp after the AIADMK denied him space in an alliance meeting, reportedly after an intelligence report had concluded that the MMK has little public support left following a split last October. Tamim Ansari, the leader who broke away from the MMK, claims the support of a large section of the Muslim youth. Sources in Ansari’s new party, Manithaneya Janayaka Katchi, hinted they too are likely to announce support for the DMK next week.
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The MMK has gained visibility over the past few years, especially while in alliance with the ruling AIADMK. It has two MLAs.
Ramu Manivannan, political science professor at University of Madras, said Muslim parties in Tamil Nadu always want a share in power, not just protection. “That way, the MMK is more significant than the IUML as it has always been visible on rights-related issues, while the IUML has focused on vote-bank politics. The MMK has better access to the public although it lost a sizeable chunk of cadres after the split,” he said.
The state’s Muslim population is between 6 and 7 per cent. The IUML retains it support in Tirunelveli, Ramanathapuram that has the highest share of Muslims, and Vellore that has the second largest share. MMK too has support in these regions.
Minority parties had been largely supporting the DMK before the trend started changing a decade ago, when younger voters started making choices based on issues. A DMK leader said minorities had been supporting them since the early 1960s. “Quaid-e-Milleth, then leader of the Muslim League, played a role in that. Yet again, we are joining hands to support the rights of minorities.”
For the AIADMK, a senior leader admitted, “A crackdown on Muslims after the Coimbatore blast and the anti-conversion law by our government in 2002 played a role in turning Muslim voters against us in the 2004 Lok Sabha and 2006 assembly polls. But,” he added, “the MMK joining the DMK will not affect us because our government has taken several pro-minority decisions. Many Muslim outfits including Indian National League are with us.”
The Tamil Nadu Tauheed Jamaat, the largest Muslim outfit in the state, is yet to announce whom it will support.
While rivals attack Jaya on the anti-conversion law, the DMK frequently refers to a speech by M Karunanidhi in 2010: “We are not ashamed of being called a minority government. I am happy to hear my government being called a minority government…”