The party is set to release first list of Lok Sabha candidates

In just five years since it entered mainstream politics, the Kongu Nadu Munnetra Kazhagam (KNMK), an influential sub-regional party, which projected itself as the voice of the Kongu region in western Tamil Nadu, is at the crossroads.

It split in 2011 with its former general secretary E.R. Easwaran forming the Kongu Makkal Desiya Katchi (KMDK) following differences with KNMK president ‘Best’ S. Ramaswamy.

A month ago, the next general secretary G.K. Nagaraj quit the post stating that the party leadership was moving in the wrong direction. But, he is still in the KNMK.

Amid these developments, Mr. Ramaswamy is set to release here on Sunday the first list of Lok Sabha poll nominees for five constituencies in Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode and Dharmapuri districts.

On the same day, Mr. Easwaran’s party will hold a ‘Political Renaissance Conference’ that will discuss problems facing the agriculture and industrial sectors of Kongu region and how solutions could be found politically.

Though branded a party “of the Gounders and for the Gounders,” the KNMK has not won the entire community’s loyalty.

Mr. Nagaraj recalled that the KNMK drew a large number of Gounder cadres from other parties, including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in 2009. “But, many of them went back owing to the confusion in our party. It is torn between the community and its political agenda.”

The first setback was the cold war between Mr. Ramaswamy and Mr. Easwaran that left the cadre and many functionaries confused. Many returned to the DMK or the AIADMK convinced that the problems in the KNMK would worsen.

Mr. Ramaswamy contended that he never proclaimed that his party was for the Gounders. “It is meant to represent the aspirations of the entire Kongu region and work for its development.”

DMK’s Coimbatore district secretary and former Minister Pongalur N. Palanisamy said there was a wrong impression that the KNMK could bring the entire Gounder community under its fold. As a region dominated by Gounders, it was only natural that the members of the community would be spread across all parties and not under one.

“All the frontline parties did experience a five per cent cadre shift when the KNMK entered the scene. But, they returned stating the KNMK could not do much for them. The KNMK lost direction after it gave even the DMK a tough fight in Gounder-dominated Assembly segments in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections,” he said.

Mr. Nagaraj pointed out that Gounders with strong following in their turfs had been Ministers and district party heads of the DMK and the AIADMK. It was unwise if any section of the KNMK thought that more than 28 lakh Gounders in Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode, Karur, Namakkal and parts of Salem in the western region, would switch loyalty.

Asked if the split proved costly, Mr. Easwaran admitted that it had sent many Gounders back to the other parties.

“They are coming back to my party,” he claims. He said that his party would accommodate persons from other communities also.

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