IN its efforts to secure victory for its star candidate — former Union health minister and PMK founder’s son Anbumani Ramadoss — from caste clash-hit Dharmapuri, the party of Vanniyars on Friday lined up the mother of the young woman whose marriage with a Dalit man had led to a caste Hindu backlash against the community.
Among the many women who stood waiting for Anbumani’s convoy to enter Sellankottai village in Dharmapuri district Friday was Thenmozhi, whose daughter Divya’s marriage to a Dalit, E Elavarasan, had led to the suicides of her husband Nagarajan and Elavarasan himself last year.
Addressing the crowd, mainly comprising his party cadre, Anbumani stayed away from any references about the clashes or caste affinities. Instead, the focus was on prohibition, giving up the culture of ‘freebies’, and the “bright future” awaiting the country under Narendra Modi’s NDA of which his party is an ally.
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But the campaign party skipped the Dalit village Natham, one of the worst-affected in the first clash, from where Elavarasan hailed. Hours after Nagarajan committed suicide, a caste Hindu mob over-ran three Dalit villages including Natham, destroying the houses, huts, vehicles, valuables and documents in arson.
In all, 326 families were on the streets without food, cloth, money or safety.
With PMK assuming the leadership of caste Hindu outfits in their violent expression of communal umbrage against Dalits marrying the women in their community, the party was accused of exploiting the long-held caste prejudices for political gains; Anbumani’s candidature from the heart of the latest clash was alleged to be the culmination of this plan.
Vanniyars comprise about 35 per cent of the population here, and there are a significant number of other intermediary castes like Naidus and Gounders. The composition is almost similar in the northern belt of Tamil Nadu from where PMK draws its strength, and party founder S Ramadoss had once toyed with the idea of floating a coalition of backward community outfits, before eventually joining the NDA, apparently at Anbumani’s insistence.
But even after the polarisation, the PMK is not finding it easy here. Anbumani’s visit to Sellankottai came a day after about 50 cadres deserted the party in favour of the DMK.
The fight is multi-cornered, with AIADMK and DMK strongly in the field. Both have the support of all sections of the population including a significant number of caste Hindu communities, and the latter has the added support of Dalit outfits.