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The Rediff Special / A Ganesh Nadar

May 03, 2004

Full Name

Pattali Makkal Katchi

When was the PMK formed?
On July 16, 1989.

What are its objectives?
To look after the downtrodden among the backward castes. In actuality, it is the political party of the
Vanniyars, who are concentrated in the northern parts of the state. As the Vanniyars grew in clout under the PMK's banner, clashes with Dalits became a regular feature. The two communities form a significant bloc -- as per the 2001 census, while the Vanniyars comprise 12.4 percent of the state's population, Dalits account for 22 percent.

Tell about the PMK's leadership.
There is only one leader: Dr S Ramadoss, and his decision is final.

Growth strategy
The party grew through a series of agitations, part of which was to block roads with tree trunks and disrupting the traffic. All the agitations had a single point agenda: Reservations and more reservations for the Vanniyars. This naturally put them on the collision course with the Dalits, who have grouped under the militant Dalit Panthers of India headed by
R Thirumalvalavan.

Fight to the finish?

Apart from the Dalits, the PMK now has a running feud with Tamil movie superstar Rajnikanth. Ramadoss felt the actor, by playing characters who smoked and drank, was setting a bad example to the state's youth. PMK supporters went on the rampage against cinemas showing Rajnikanth's 2002 film, Baba. The film bombed at the box office, and Rajnikanth had been waiting for the opportune time to strike back. With elections announced, he broke his self-imposed vow of silence, and appealed to his fans to vote for the BJP. The fans are determined to work against the PMK, and a battle royale is in the offing.

Who is the party aligned with?
The PMK has had different allies in every election. Tamil Nadu has two parties around which the rest cluster: the DMK and the AIADMK. The PMK invariably supports the winning side. In the 1999 election it was a
part of the National Democratic Alliance at the Centre (which also included the DMK), but the constant war of nerves the DMK led to its exit from the NDA and in the 2001 state assembly election it aligned with the AIADMK and won 20 seats. Sadly for PMK, the latter performed so well that it did not need the PMK's support to form the government. A slighted Ramadoss then  went back to the DMK.

In this election, the PMK is part of the DMK-led alliance which includes the Congress.

Isn't that odd?
It sure is. The PMK
supports the LTTE, while the Congress holds the LTTE responsible for the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. But then, stranger things are known to happen in politics.

What is the PMK's electoral record?

In the outgoing Lok Sabha, the PMK had five members of Parliament and two ministers of state -- N T Shanmugham and E Ponnuswamy -- till it pulled out of the NDA.

Image: Rahil Shaikh

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