With an eye on the OBC-Dalit voter base in Tamil Nadu, a key state in the BJP’s expansion plans, party president Amit Shah has propped up the demand of seven sub-caste groups — with a population of 1 crore in the state — to be renamed as Devendrakula Vellalars.
Shah, along with P Muralidhar Rao, BJP general secretary in charge of party affairs in Tamil Nadu, and representatives from RSS economic wing Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, took 101 members from the sub-caste groups — Kudumbar, Pannadi, Kaalaadi, Kadayar, Devendrakultar, Pallar and Vadhiriyaar — to Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday. Modi, who according to BJP leaders was surprised to see their “pride and self-respect”, has promised them he would start “exploring the possibilities” of re-christening them on the “auspicious day” of Ganesh Chaturthi on Thursday.
Interestingly, some of these caste groups are keen to be brought out of the reservation category, a demand that is in line with the stand of hardliners in the BJP over caste-based reservation. “Their demand… will lead to the creation of a harmonious society,” said Rao after the hourlong meeting.
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The meeting assumes significance in the context of the agitation led by Hardik Patel demanding inclusion of Patel community in the OBC category. BJP’s ideological parent RSS has been advocating abolition of caste-based quota and wants reservation on the basis of economic status.
According to M Thangaraj, one of the representatives who met Modi, people belonging to the sub-caste groups are spread across 21 districts.
They have demanded that the Centre issue an order recognising them as Devendrakula Vellalars. While CM Jayalalithaa has backed their demand, her predecessor M Karunanidhi had appointed a commission to look into the issue of uniting the sub-castes.
“These groups feel their names are derogatory and do not match their pride and heritage. Some consider the SC tag as a stigma,” R Sreenivasan, an SJM leader told The Indian Express.