TIRUCHY: Naam Tamilar Katchi, which was a fringe player a few years ago, garnered an impressive 4 per cent of the votes in the 2019 Parliamentary elections.
Yet, it’s hardly talked about in this poll season. Though the leaders of all other parties started their campaigns well ahead, it was only a couple of days ago that Naam Tamilar Katchi’s Seeman made a public appearance.
His fiery speech, while introducing his 234 candidates on a single platform in Chennai, was immediately uploaded on social media platforms, an indication that he is heavily reliant on social media.
It came at a time when many functionaries of NTK have been shifting their allegiance to other parties like the AIADMK, DMK, and even BJP, for the past few months. These turncoats blame Seeman for various reasons. But what has led to the NTK finding themselves in such a spot?
How did the NTK grow?
Naam Tamilar was launched as a movement in 2009 after the final phase of the Eelam war in which many Tamils were killed.
There was an accumulated anger against the Congress and its ally DMK at that time. Riding on this, Seeman attracted the youth, who were interested in the pro-Tamil sentiments he espoused.
In 2010, Seeman converted the movement into Naam Tamilar Katchi, a political party. When the State faced Assembly elections in 2011, the NTK actively campaigned against the DMK-Congress alliance.
NTK leaders, including Seeman, were involved in intense campaigns particularly in the 63 constituencies where the Congress candidates contested.
In that election, Congress won only five seats. In the 2014 parliamentary election, NTK campaigned against the BJP alliance as they were seen as a communal force. AIADMK swept that election by winning 37 out of 39 seats.
Sensing the growing support for the NTK’s cause, Seeman decided to take the plunge and fielded candidates in the 2016 Assembly elections.
Seeman, who contested from Cuddalore, ended up fifth. The party managed to secure a 1.1 per cent vote share.
Fast forward to the 2019 parliamentary election. NTK’s vote share tripled to 3.9 percent to the surprise of many seasoned political observers. The party enjoyed tremendous support from a section of the diaspora Tamils and many of them even reportedly funded the party.
The NTK has managed to bring the ideas of Tamil Nationalism and jobs in TN being reserved for locals into the mainstream political domain. This has played a significant role in attracting the support of the young in the state.
Seeman also kept his promise of fielding 50 per cent women candidates - in the 2016, 2019 and 2021 elections. Yet, just a couple of years later the NTK and Seeman are suddenly struggling to create a buzz in the days running up to the 2021 polls.
‘Vanity fair for Seeman’
DMK’s spokesperson Rajiv Gandhi, one of the founding leaders of NTK who recently quit to join DMK, said, “NTK has veered away from the purpose and ideology for which it was built. It has now been reduced into a vanity fair for Seeman.”
He went on to add that leave alone the call for Eelam, the NTK has failed to take a firm stand on other vital issues like social justice and casteism.
It has not helped that many other candidates of NTK and district secretaries and other functionaries are seen shifting to other parties. The dissenters have blamed the party's dilution of purpose, the growing rigidity of caste within the party and the alleged authoritative behavior of Seeman as reasons behind their disillusionment.
“Like other parties, Seeman is also considering caste while selecting candidates and also in appointing functionaries for party posts. The role of caste is increasingly a dominant one and this has made many feel disgruntled,” said an NTK functionary who also contested in the 2019 election.
Many others felt the speeches of Seeman have turned silly.
“He has been churning out unbelievable stories about his brief stint in Sri Lanka. I feel that these stories end up mocking the leaders of LTTE. Stories like Prabhakaran training him personally in firearms, particularly to use the ‘AK-74’, the LTTE cadre treating him with turtle meat delicacies are only making it worse. Through this Seeman is presenting a wrong picture to the youth,” said another functionary.
The recently held ear-piercing ceremony for Seeman’s son in a temple has sparked off further resentment.
But loyalists will have none of it.
“Though some functionaries have left, the increasing internet literacy in Tamil Nadu during the lockdown has brought more people towards our leader. They are listening to his speeches on YouTube and that is evident by the high number of views for those videos. We hope that will transform into votes,” said R Vijayakumar, Tiruchy (East) constituency secretary.