ARIYALUR: Absence of a strong leader, rising dissent among rank and file, and maintaining distance from the Dravidian majors have cost PMK dear in Ariyalur, its bastion. The BJP, which till recently did not have a stake in the district, has exploited the chinks in PMK’s armour and is drawing hordes of disgruntled cadre from the party.
The PMK owes its sway over the Vanniyar dominant district to its late leader Kaduvetti J Guru. A confidant of PMK founder Dr S Ramadoss, Guru consolidated the Vanniyar vote bank, which made DMK and AIADMK despite their strong presence in the district to woo the party.
The party started to crumble in the aftermath of Guru’s death as the high command failed to control damage. Guru’s aide G Vaithilingam who garnered support at grassroots level was sidelined. Plum posts were given to his rivals TMT Thirumavalavan and Samidurai which riled Vaithilingam’s supporters and they stayed away from party activities. This, and the PMK’s continuous propaganda against the Dravidian majors and their ideology created a void which the BJP occupied.
The BJP played its card well and appointed K Iyyappan, who was in the Vanniyar Sangam for over 15 years, as president of the district unit. Knowing the PMK insiders in the district well, Iyyappan struck a chord with dissenting PMK cadre as a result of which the BJP office in Sendurai is abuzz every day with new entrants swarming in and out even in the pandemic. Those who switched over were given party posts at union level, which was not the case when they were in the PMK.
A PMK functionary, requesting anonymity, said, “Guru was the binding force for the youth and Vanniyars in the district. Following his demise, Vanniyar youth, who grew up seeing Guru as their leader were left without someone to look up to. On the other hand, PMK high command continuously instilled the idea of keeping away from Dravidian parties. Confused, they moved towards the BJP.”
Consequently, hundreds of villages in Ariyalur district have BJP’s presence and see party flag flying. At several villages surround Sendurai, at least half of the cadre base of the PMK has turned to the BJP. The BJP is not approaching the PMK’s notable functionaries rather target only the cadre.
Iyyappan said, “For us, every polling booth is a branch. The district has over 700 polling booths. We have so far formed branches in about 580 booths and the rest would be completed soon. The district unit currently has 27, 000 members and we are working to enroll more.” When asked about more cadre of PMK joining the BJP, he said “More people from the Vanniyar community are joining our party because they see Narendra Modi as a promising leader who could protect and develop the country.”
Iyyppan refuted allegations that BJP lured members with assurance of bank loan to tide over the lockdown-induced crisis, “All eligible candidates, if they approach the banks, they would get loans. We have no role in that.”
Commenting on the exodus, TMT Thirumavalavan, PMK’s state deputy general secretary, said “Ariyalur will always remain the fortress of our leader Ramadoss. BJP is blowing up that more cadre from our party are joining their party. They might be from other parties but not from the PMK. Not even a single notable functionary of the PMK switched camp. Iyyappan may be doing all these gimmicks to attract the attention of his party high command. If any BJP functionary tries to enter a village with the intention of enrolling PMK cadre in their party, we will see to it that they will be stopped at the boundary. They cannot enter any village in the district.”