In a first, the ruling AIADMK has fielded a candidate from the fishermen community in the Lok Sabha elections.
Dr J Jayavardhan, son of former Assembly Speaker D Jayakumar, will be the first fisherman from the State to enter the Lok Sabha, if elected, from the prestigious South Chennai constituency. A political novice, he is being pitted against DMK veteran T K S Elangovan.
In the Assembly elections, the AIADMK had fielded four candidates from the community, while the PMK once fielded an inland fisherman in Puducherry as its candidate for the Lok Sabha elections.
Though the community forms a significant votebank in the coastal districts, their representation in the Lok Sabha has eluded them thus far.
Even during the delimitation exercise undertaken by the Election Commission, there was a vociferous demand to form a parliamentary constituency by including fisherfolk-dominant contiguous assembly segments in southern TN.
Fishermen leaders assign various reasons for the neglect of the community, the most important being the perennial firing on Indian fishermen from the State by the Lankan forces not being dealt with, due to political gains.
“We have also failed to observe the Marina firing in 1985 during the fishermen’s protest against Marina beautification which threatened to relocate the fishermen,” said SA Magesh, founder, All India Traditional Fishermen Association. At a time when the fishermen issue has assumed significance, no other party has given ticket to anyone from the community.
“Politicians like MDMK supremo Vaiko and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi were content with keeping us silent. All that they do is shoot off a letter to the Centre. If elected, we will raise our voice in Parliament. Even the current BJP combine doesn’t have a single fisherman among its candidates,” he added.
Detailing the vote share in Kanyakumari, Magesh said even the AAP candidate SP Udayakumar did not pave the way for fielding a fisherman, while the community has 24 per cent vote share.
“DMK’s manifesto says it will strive for implementing the Mandal Commission’s recommendation to include fishermen in the SC list. But, they are not prepared to give ticket to our community,” said K Bharathi, president, South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association.