The AIADMK and the DMK are concentrating their efforts on wooing the Vanniyars, a caste-Hindu community, in Yercaud, which goes to polls on December 4.
Reason: they constitute between 41 and 46 per cent in the constituency. The constituency has been reserved for ST candidates ever since it was formed in 1957. The large Vanniyar population is because the Vanniyar-majority Panamarathupatti Assembly constituency was largely merged with Yercaud after the last delimitation exercise.
With the Pattali Makkal Katchi, identified with the Vanniyars, not contesting the by-election, a major part of the campaign by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) candidate P. Saroja and her rival from the Dravida Munetra Kazhagam (DMK) V. Maran, is not on the hills that make up Yercaud; it’s in the Vanniyar belts of Ayothiyapattinam and Vazhapadi.
“The DMK and the AIADMK are after the Vanniyar vote-bank, on the belief that they will decide the next MLA of Yercaud. They are neglecting more than 83,000 SC and ST voters who constitute 35 per cent of the total voters in the constituency. They will have to give due importance to SC and ST voters,” says Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi’s district secretary R. Navarasan.
As per the 2001 statistics used for calculating the population for the 2011 Assembly Elections, obtained from the election department here, the total population of the constituency has been put at 2,96,171. This included 54,246 (18.32 per cent) from Scheduled Tribes (ST) and 64,276 persons (21.70 per cent) from Scheduled Caste (SC) communities. With the Vanniyars’ strength being put at anywhere between 41 per cent and 46 per cent, they are almost evenly placed in strength and make a sizeable vote-bank that the ST candidates will have to woo.
The total population in the nearby Senthamangalam constituency, which is also reserved for ST candidates, is 2,54,320 (according to 2001 figures).
This includes 37,923 (14.91 per cent) from ST communities and 60,762 persons from SC communities (23.89 per cent). The Vanniyar votes were split among the frontline parties. “We are highlighting the atrocities of the ruling party on Vanniyars, after the incidents at Dharmapuri and Marakkanam”, said T.M. Selvaganapathy, Rajya Sabha MP, who is part of the DMK campaign.
A senior AIADMK district functionary said Vanniyars were traditionally strong supporters of the AIADMK from the times of M.G. Ramachandran. He was confident that the action taken against Vanniyars at Dharmapuri and Marakkanam would hardly impact voting in Yercaud.
“Both the parties are against our community and the PMK. We will soon meet our party cadres in the constituency and remind them of our leader Dr. S. Ramadoss’ stand of ‘no support to both the Dravidian parties,” the PMK’s State vice-president K. Shanmugam said.