In Cuddalore and Villupuram, the two parties have charted out their own campaign schedule with little meeting ground

Leaders of the DMDK and the PMK, major constituents of the BJP-led rainbow alliance in Tamil Nadu, are sharing platforms for electioneering across Tamil Nadu. But the foot soldiers of these traditional rivals in the northern constituencies maintain an uneasy equation on the ground.

The war of words in the past between PMK founder S. Ramadoss and DMDK chief Vijayakant continues to weigh heavily on the minds of party workers. While these leaders have asked their cadre to work closely for the victory of the alliance, several factors, including caste polarisation, have impeded the amalgamation. In Cuddalore and Villupuram, the two parties have charted out their own campaign schedule with little meeting ground. The PMK yielding Cuddalore to the DMDK has left its supporters disenchanted.

“There will be cross-voting, to the extent of five to seven per cent, that will benefit the DMK and the AIADMK,” says Bose Ramachandran, a municipal councillor.

In both the Tiruvannamalai and Arani constituencies, the only gain for the PMK is its free access to the huge chunk of the Vanniyar cadre of the Vijayakant-led DMDK. Here, the PMK has started weaving a discreet, virtual alliance of cross-party Vanniyars. Beyond the caste factor, there is no significant cooperation.

The caste polarisation has also divided the DMDK within. The party, which boasts a sizeable number of Dalits, seems to have annoyed many of its own workers by aligning with the PMK. “After the PMK’s campaign against Dalits, how can we campaign for it? I have stayed away from party work though I am still a ‘Captain’ supporter,” says Veera Raman of Aayipettai.

Worse, Dr. Ramadoss restricting his campaign to constituencies contested by the PMK has added fuel to the fire.

In fact, in Chidambaram (reserve), where the PMK has fielded Sudha Manirathinem, a new face, PMK workers expect Dalits to rally round VCK leader Thol. Thirumavalavan. The DMDK’s contribution may not be significant, says a local PMK leader.

At the ground level, the BJP and DMDK cadre are upset at the way they are treated by PMK candidates and poll managers. According to a BJP functionary, the PMK candidates reckon that the BJP will not contribute much to their prospects.

The MDMK supporters, a majority of whom are non-Vanniyars, are also taken aback by the scale and intensity of caste mobilisation by PMK functionaries. Non-Vanniyars are discouraged from intense campaigning, they say.

The constituencies where there is better coordination are Arakkonam and Vellore, primarily because of the candidates — the former Union Minister, R. Velu, and Pudhiya Needhi Katchi leader A.C. Shanmugam — are affable personalities.

(Sruthisagar Yamunan in Chennai, A. V. Ragunathan in Cuddalore, R. Arivanantham in Dharmapuri, and P. V. V. Murthi and A. D. Balasubramanian in Vellore).

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