Tamil Nadu

TN Assembly polls | 10.5% quota for Vanniyars a provisional arrangement, says Panneerselvam

Taking time off from his campaign in Bodinayakkanur where he is contesting for the third successive time, the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) coordinator and Deputy Chief Minister, O. Panneerselvam, on Monday asserted that the 10.5% reservation for Vanniyakula Kshatriyas within 20% quota for Most Backward Classes was “only a provisional arrangement.” After an official panel, entrusted with the task of compiling data on castes, carried out a caste-wise census and submitted its report, castes covered under the 20% quota would be given reservation in proportion to their population. “A law will be enacted in this regard,” he pointed out.

In a freewheeling interview, the 70-year-old AIADMK leader also touched upon other aspects such as any change in his position on the Sasikala factor, prospects of the AIADMK-led alliance in the election and the DMK’s charge against his party being a “B” team of the BJP. Edited excerpts:

What is your take on the 10.5% quota for Vanniyakula Kshatriyas ?

Prior to making the demand on internal reservation, Vanniyars had only sought a caste-wise census. A Government Order was issued, following which a commission, headed by a [retired] judge of [the Madras] High Court, was set up. The Supreme Court’s ruling is that any internal reservation must be based on the present population and be implemented after a caste-wise census. It is very clear that the quota system can’t have the old population data as the basis for reservation. The Chief Minister and I had explained the legal position to representatives of the Vanniyar community. But they wanted some quantum to be given to them on a provisional basis. They also agreed that on completion of the census, the quantum of reservation which would be worked out in proportion to their population within the 20% quota would be permanent. So, the present order is only provisional. Once the caste-wise census is over, there will be a final and permanent order.

The quota may go up or down in proportion to the population after the commission submits its report. A law will be enacted in this regard.

Couldn’t you have waited for the election to get over?

We initially told them [Vanniyars] that the internal reservation could be provided after the caste-wise census. But the representatives of the community, including PMK leader S. Ramadoss, wanted a provisional arrangement to be worked out first.

Is there a sense of anger or sadness among the denotified communities (DNCs), including the Piramalai Kallars, on this issue?

Not only the DNCs, but also the MBCs are covered under the 20% quota scheme. There are 98 castes under the scheme. Piramalai Kallars, Maravars and a small section of Kallars are there. Agamudaiyars are not there. Piramalai Kallars are predominantly in Madurai, Dindigul and Theni, while Maravars are in Theni, Virudhunagar, Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi.

The DNCs have been given 7% and other MBCs 2.5%. All this is temporary. There is no need to consider it as a grave offence.

What are the prospects of your front in the election? Several opinion polls have been adverse to you...

The opinion polls are being made as per the stand of those who conduct them. As far as we are concerned, we have been implementing all schemes of Amma [Jayalalithaa] without any shortcomings. We are carrying out additional schemes too for the welfare of the people. There is a widespread goodwill among the public that our government immediately resolves people’s problems as and when they arise We have been functioning as a government that keeps only the interests of people and the State in mind, which is the way shown by Amma. We will score a massive victory.

There is a view in certain quarters that there is a lack of cohesion within your party and a lack of cooperation with your allies.

No, I do not agree. It is not proper to make such criticism. All our ties are cordial and there is no place for any difference of opinion.

What is your response to the DMK’s campaign on corruption charges and the AIADMK being subservient to the BJP or the Centre?

The DMK has no moral authority to speak about corruption. The BJP, which came to power at the Centre in 2014, completed its full term in 2019, and now continues to be in power after winning the people’s mandate and getting a majority [in Parliament]. There is an alliance between a good government at the Centre and a good government in the State. How can this be portrayed as a huge crime? It is not at all acceptable. Actually, our alliance is an alliance for the people’s welfare. That is how the people view our relationship.

In 2017 and in a December 2018 interview with The Hindu, you had said that there should be no domination by any single family over the AIADMK’s affairs. But your recent statements give the impression that you are now for reconciliation with Sasikala and T.T.V. Dhinakaran.

Both were in the AIADMK. At present, the AIADMK is functioning in a democratic way. The present set up of coordinator and co-coordinator within the party and that of Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister in the government is going on without the domination of any single family or an individual. Thanks to this set up, based on a policy decision of the party, any ordinary worker in the future can become coordinator, co-coordinator, the Chief Minister or the Deputy Chief Minister. We have created a structure wherein the party will not come under the control of any single family or individual in the future.

Do you mean to say that there is no change in your position?

Yes. My stand then was that there should be no domination of any family over party matters, be it the EPS [Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami] family or the OPS [Mr. Panneerselvam himself] family. My son [P. Ravindharanath] became an MP through the support of the people. But if he succeeds me as coordinator, this is called family politics. Take the case of the DMK, where Mr. Stalin became the party chief after his father, Kalaignar [M. Karunanidhi]. This is what family politics is. But the AIADMK is a party of workers. This was how Thalaivar [M.G. Ramachandran] created it. Till the end, we shall ensure that the party is carried on as a movement of workers.

Earlier this month, Sasikala issued a general appeal to followers of Jayalalithaa to prevent the DMK from coming to power. Has any attempt been made by party to seek her support?

No. There is has been no such move on either side. She had issued a statement that she would stay away from politics. She is sticking to that position.

Is there any scope for approaching her for support in the future?

I cannot reply to a question of speculation.

Your recent statement that there is no “permanent Chief Minister” has given rise to talk that you are having a separate plan after election results. What is your response?

My statement is based on a policy decision of the party. As far as this election is concerned, the party general council adopted a resolution, naming Mr. Palaniswami as the candidate for the post of Chief Minister. Subsequently, I made an announcement to this effect.

Will he become the Chief Minister again if the party gets a majority?

Yes. There is no change.

Why is it that you are not campaigning in very many constituencies?

No. Apart from my constituency, I have covered the northern districts such as Chennai, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur, and the western ones — Erode, Coimbatore and Tiruppur. I am planning to go to the south.

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 12:24:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/tamil-nadu-assembly/tn-assembly-polls-105-quota-for-vanniyars-a-provisional-arrangement-says-panneerselvam/article34192392.ece

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