The Dalit vote


I am sure I am not the only or the first or even the millionth person to notice this. However, I have not heard it said or seen it written: MK Stalin’s mother is Dalit. Yet, he never uses his Dalit status on the campaign trail. The total Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes population in Tamil Nadu is between 20-25% of the State’s overall population.

Going even farther back is fascinating and futile. Since 1920, there have been only two Chief Ministers who belonged to a caste that was large in terms of numbers: K Kamaraj and O Panneerselvam. Everyone else has belonged to a caste that was so small demographically; almost always under 5%. The other interesting aspect about that list is, we find where streets in KK Nagar get their names from.

I thought I had a fantastic analysis on Thol Thirumavalavan. I realize, I don’t. However, it’s obvious to anyone who cares to look at the list that fear of domination by an equal is the biggest driver of political equilibrium in the State. The past 40 years since CN Annadurai, who belonged to the reasonably dominant caste of Sengunda Mudaliyar, is especially illuminating: M Karunanidhi, MG Ramachandran, J Jayalalitha. That’s Isai Vellalar, Nair and Iyengar. Put together, their communities probably form less than 1% of Tamil Nadu’s population. In the 70s and 80s when MGR weaved his Dalit+Thevar formula, did MK Stalin not try any Dalit mobilization at all? I am aware that he did nothing of that sort in the 90s when Dalit politics had become mainstream. In that time, the DMK did face an existential threat. Is the code for mainstream acceptance so rigidly anti-anyone from a caste >5% that even an AIADMK dominance was not reason enough for the DMK to play the Dalit card?

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