CUDDALORE: No roaring lions, no blood-dripping swords or sickles, no Veerappan and no communally-charged slogans. After earning its share of brickbats for the virulence of cadre, especially during massive conferences it holds every year, the Pattali Makkal Katchi is attempting to reinvent its image ahead of the social justice conference in Villupuram on Sunday.
PMK functionaries in Cuddalore, one of the party’s pockets of strength, have asked youth wing cadre to shun the images of sickles or swords, lion, and portraits of slain forest brigand Veerappan on posters, banners, T-shirts and stickers on their vehicles as they head to Villupuram. The cadre are also advised to avoid provocative slogans on caste lines during village and block-level meetings that are being held ahead of the conference on Sunday.
To reach young cadre, district-level functionaries are also circulating these guidelines on social media.
This is an evident reinvention for a party that has its foundation on Vanniyar caste pride. Among the imagery employed for this are the roaring lion and fire pot, associated with Vanniyar pride; the blood-dripping sickles and swords on T-shirts and banners; and Veerappan portraits hailing him as a hero from the community.
Communally-charged slogans led to large-scale violence and deaths at Marakkanam in 2013, and then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa read out some of these in the State Assembly while discussing the violence.
“Now, our block and town-level functionaries belong to various castes. We need to bring in people from all communities to win public support. We have told cadre to avoid issues that annoy the general public,” said P Thamaraikannan, PMK State deputy president. As part of the image makeover, slain forest brigand Veerappan will no longer be on its posters.
Defending the new line, PMK spokesperson and advocate K Balu said, “PMK never announced Veerappan as the party’s icon. Our party has only three leaders – Periyar, Ambedkar and Karl Marx – as our guides.”
The effort to bring about a code of conduct has set off heated arguments in the comments section in social media. A section argue that the exclusive symbols of Vanniyar identity like lion and fire pot were the party’s strength, which should not be shed for any reason.