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Dalit leader walks out of PMK, quits politics

Special Correspondent
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E. Ponnusamy
E. Ponnusamy

Former Pattali Makkal Katchi general secretary and former Union Minister of State, E. Ponnusamy, announced on Friday that he was quitting politics, as he could not agree with the leadership’s stand on social issues such as the Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and inter-caste marriages.

“I cannot continue in the party when I don’t agree with its stand on these issues. I explained my position at a party forum platform and the leadership gave a clarification. But, I respect my friendship with Dr. Ramadoss and others and decided to quit politics,” he told reporters here.

At a time when the PMK is campaigning against inter-caste marriages and making a demand for amendments to the Act to ensure that it is not “misused”, Mr. Ponnusamy’s decision makes a further dent on the image of the party, once considered a bridge between intermediate communities and Dalits.

PMK founder S. Ramadoss, keen on bringing together the Vanniyars and Dalits, had always appointed a Dalit as the party’s general secretary. When the PMK was offered a berth in the Union Cabinet in 1998, he made Dalit Ezhilmalai Minister of State for Health. However, differences of opinion led to Mr. Ezhilmalai leaving the party.

Mr. Ponnusamy, twice elected from Chidambaram Lok Sabha Constituency, replaced Mr. Ezhilmalai both in the party and the Union Cabinet. The party did not nominate any Dalit to the Cabinet in 2004.

Mr. Ponnusamy said he fully believed that the SC/ST Act was essential for the protection of poor Dalits.

On the PMK’s stand on inter-caste marriages, he said that love was a natural feeling and could not be explained in terms of caste and religion.

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