PATTALI Makkal Katchi (PMK) founder Dr S. Ramadoss is trying to shore up the party’s sliding fortunes by forming a caste-based federation against Dalits, said Thol. Thirumavalavan, Lok Sabha member and leader of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK). In 2012, the PMK formed a nine-member front of intermediate castes, called the “All Communities’ Federation”, following its defeats in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and the 2011 Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu.

Besides, the PMK’s credibility had taken a beating because of its frequent shifting of political alliances, he said. According to him, “political parties do not trust Ramadoss” and “so he wants to create an alternative” to the DMK and the AIADMK by forming a caste-based front.

The PMK founder has apparently taken his cue from Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, who is trying to coordinate non-Dalit forces against Mayawati, the president of the Bahujan Samaj Party, said Thirumavalavan. “Ramadoss wants to use this formula in Tamil Nadu” and his calculation is that if he were to take an anti-Dalit stand, he would command the attention of the government and the people, he said. Hence, he said, Ramadoss had taken to railing against inter-caste marriages involving Dalits.

Thirumavalavan quoted a study, reportedly done by Princeton University in the United States, which said that the number of inter-caste marriages in Tamil Nadu was lower than the national average. Inter-caste marriages involving Dalits accounted for only 1.2 per cent and those among non-Dalits formed only 1.3 per cent of the marriages in the State. These figures were “negligible” compared with 20 per cent inter-caste marriages in Kerala, the VCK leader said. But Ramadoss was “magnifying this non-issue” and fomenting “an anti-Dalit mindset” among non-Dalits, he said. He sees the attack on the Dalit settlement at Kattayan Theru in Marakkanam as a well-planned one.

In November 2012, “well-trained persons” and “criminals” took part in the attack on Dalit colonies near Naickenkottai, Dharmapuri district, alleged Thirumavalavan. It was no surprise then that the PMK was training its guns on the VCK, which had a strong presence in the districts of northern Tamil Nadu. Whipping up an anti-Dalit sentiment was “a dangerous strategy” which would be harmful not only to Dalits but to Tamil Nadu as a whole, the VCK leader said. “It will be a stumbling block for the growth of progressive forces.”

D. Ravikumar, former VCK legislator, described inter-caste marriages involving Dalits “a fictitious issue” that “will easily provoke their [the PMK] men”. Hence, Ramadoss was ridiculing them as “love dramas aimed at extracting money”. Dalits and Vanniyars were toiling communities and most of them were landless labourers who worked together in the fields, he pointed out. But “violence erupted because of Ramadoss’s political agenda” and the formation of a caste-based front was “a desperate attempt” to capture power in the State in the 2016 Assembly elections, he said.

Ravikumar said the PMK leader expected a “political vacuum” in Tamil Nadu by 2016 when a leadership crisis might grip the DMK and an anti-incumbency factor would work against the AIADMK. Ramadoss’s calculation was that if the PMK won 50 Assembly seats in the 2016 elections with the help of a caste-based front, it could then be a deciding factor in government formation, he said. The police arrested Ramadoss on April 30 not because the ruling dispensation was sympathetic to Dalits but because the PMK founder threw a challenge at the AIADMK government to arrest him after he violated the 10 p.m. deadline for the public meeting to end at Mamallapuram on April 25, Thirumavalavan said.

T.S. Subramanian