Chennai, May 3 (IANS) Fighting the assembly polls on its own, the PMK is trying to shed its ‘Vanniyar caste’ image by propping up candidates of all communities in a bid to do a BSP in Tamil Nadu.
The party’s chief ministerial candidate, Anbumani Ramadoss, has addressed several meetings to convince party leaders and cadres that it was time to bring about a transformation within.
“We have to change as we are growing at a fast pace. Now we have broad-based our party,” Ramadoss, a former central minister whose party was part of both the Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Manmohan Singh governments, told IANS in an interview.
“This time we have fielded candidates from a cross-section of the society: Brahmins, Christians, Muslims, Dalits, Mudaliars and others apart from Vanniars,” the 47-year-old said.
“We have fielded 48 Dalits though the number of reserved constituencies in the state is only 46. We are going that extra mile,” he added.
Like the BSP in northern India once refused to see beyond the Dalit vote bank, the PMK, born in 1989, has been solidly identified with the Vanniyar caste, which accounts for 20-25 percent of Tamil Nadu’s population.
And just like the BSP, the PMK seems to have realized that a single caste can never prop up any party to power. It has just two members in the outgoing assembly.
This time, the PMK is contesting the election to the 234-member Tamil Nadu assembly without any allies. In the process, it has taken on the two major parties: the AIADMK and the DMK.
Ramadoss said the idea was to attract the neutral and new voters that is said to number around 1.5 crore. The state election is due on May 16.
The PMK has also fielded several young and new faces who were not even its members.
“In the past we were part of alliances and were given a limited number of seats,” he said.
“This time we have 234 seats to contest. We decided to offer a chance to professionals. There is no internal dissidence due to this.”
Ramadoss told IANS: “The clear trend is that people want a change – a fresh alternative to the two Dravidian parties, AIADMK and DMK.
“The youth certainly thinks that I can provide the much needed quality change than other options.”
Of course, the PMK, like others, is making plenty of promises to the voters. Those in the farm sector have been promised free seeds, fertiliser and farm motors. Their loans will be written off.
The PMK has also promised to give Rs.100,000 worth of freebies a year to each family for education, agriculture and health heads.
Asked what kind of chief minister he will if his party wins the polls, Ramadoss said: “I will meet the leaders of the opposition every month. And during assembly session 70 percent of the time will be given to opposition parties. The proceedings will be telecast live.”
He said Tiruchirapalli will be made Tamil Nadu’s second capital by shifting agriculture related departments there.
The PMK has promised doubling of budget allocation for education and provision of free school education.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)