On April 22, former Telecom Minister and Propaganda Secretary of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), A Raja, drove to Kothagiri in the hilly Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. His missive from the party high command was singular – pacify the warring factions of the DMK in the area and hold reconciliatory talks.
However, as Raja reached Kothagiri, he was in for a shock. Hundreds of his own party men surrounded his car, throwing eggs and slippers at it. The angry protesters were supporters of the sitting Coonoor MLA K Ramachandran of the DMK. They wanted their leader to be given the ticket this time too. Instead the party high command had chosen another candidate Mubarak over Ramachandran. Expectedly, Ramachandran was furious. But the open rebellion sent shock waves through the party leadership.
“When all the sitting MLAs have got their ticket for contesting, why have I been denied?” asked an angry Ramachandran. “Without any explanation, a newcomer has been given the ticket which is a sure way to lose this constituency.”
The open rebellion sent shock waves through the party leadership.
Ramachandran hails from the Baduga tribe, a community that comprises close to 60% of the population of Coonoor.
“I belong to their community and I have been working for their welfare for many years and have earned their affection and respect,” continued Ramachandran. “At this juncture announcing a person who is not a Baduga is a sure way of losing. From the day the candidate list was announced we have been protesting. Now the time for filing nomination papers has come but the high command keeps mum, which has saddened all of us,” he said.
Ramachandran wants amends to be made. “Either give me the ticket for contesting from this area or else give me the post of District Secretary of the party. I have conveyed this to the high command.”
Coonoor candidate for 2016, Mubarak says the party is what brings in the votes, at least in this area. “The party has announced my nomination and I am working towards winning this constituency,” said Mubarak. “One should not look at this area as belonging to one community. Here people vote for the Party and not for the candidate.”
Coonoor candidate for 2016, Mubarak says the party is what brings in the votes, at least in this area.
It is not just in Coonoor though, where the DMK is a divided house. Sholinganallur, in south Chennai area, too has witnessed factional feuds within the DMK. The candidate for Sholinganallur, Arvind Ramesh, is said to have been pushed through by Duraimurugan, veteran DMK leader and its Deputy General Secretary. South Chennai district deputy secretary of the DMK, Palavakkam Viswanathan, expressed his anger and his supporters protested and burnt Duraimurugan’s effigy.
In Vellore district too, DMK cadre are protesting against the candidature of Amulu Vijayan for the KV Kuppam seat. Over 20 leaders of the DMK here expressed willingness to contest. But the ticket was given to Amulu Vijayan who hails from Kallur near Gudiyatam. Since the nomination was given to an illiterate candidate who did not belong to the area, Vellore DMK cadre have decided to continue protests until a candidate from KV Kuppam itself was announced.
In Vellore district too, DMK cadre are protesting against the candidature of Amulu Vijayan for the KV Kuppam seat.
Political analyst Gnani Sankaran told HuffPost India: “During election times this always happens, this time the protests are more in the DMK,” he said. “This shows the dissonance between the cadre and the high command. In some constituencies seniors are fighting with the younger new candidates whereas in other places the youngsters say that the seniors still dominate those areas. The fight for retaining power and the fight for grappling the power from the seniors will always continue,” he said.
The list of areas where dissidence is boiling over within the DMK is growing longer. Anaikattu, Nagai District, Sirkazhi, Trichy, Thiruverumbur, Krishnagiri and in Palayamkottai, DMK cadre is protesting against the candidate who has been given the seat. Due to pressure from the cadre, DMK has changed the candidates for Arakkonam, Orathanadu, Cholavandaan, Vriddachalam and Alangudi.
60% of the DMK’s candidate list for 2016 is first time candidates. The party is contesting 173 seats out of 234, with 41 seats allotted to the Congress and the rest to a clutch of smaller parties.