Tamil Nadu’s population (7,21,77,030 as per Census 2011) is dominated by Vanniyars who account for 22 per cent, followed by the Mukkulathor community with 20 per cent. Another major chunk is formed by SC/ST with 20.01 per cent and 1.10 per cent, respectively. Hindu Nadars (8.5 per cent), Christians and Kongu Vellala Gounders at 7 per cent each are the other dominant groups. The rest include Muthurayars (3 per cent), Mudaliars (5 per cent) and Chettiars (1.5 per cent), Brahmins (2 per cent), Muslims (6 per cent) and non-Tamils (10 per cent). OBCs constitute 68 per cent of all castes.
Caste-wise division of state
The northern districts have a fair share of Mudaliars and Vanniyars, while the west is dominated by Gounders. The remaining state is home to other castes. As Non-Tamils, who are from other states but domiciled in the state, are nearly 10 per cent of the population, their vote bank matters too.
Debacle for Kalaiarasu
The first rumble of caste-based conflict was heard in Anaikattu constituency where former PMK MLA M Kalaiarasu now contests on the ‘Two leaves’ symbol. Local Vanniyars feel he has betrayed the PMK and this might work against him while a sizeable section of Mudaliars might work against him because he is a Vanniyar. AIADMK applicants from the area who were rejected might not co-operate or might work against him openly. “Though Kalairasu is meeting people in his area who can use their influence in his favour, it is not going to be a cake-walk like last time,” sources say.
Is caste identity boon or bane?
Though PMK initially began as a party of Vanniyars, gradually its founder Dr S Ramadoss has tried to eschew the caste tag to ensure that the party appeals to all sections of society. This is especially true after the party announced sitting Dharmapuri MP R Anbumani as its chief ministerial candidate and said it would go it alone in the May 16 election.
An undercurrent is also at work among the Mukkulathor community in the state. The community and its sub-sects in districts south of Madurai and those around Thanjavur are attitudinally different.
Those in the latter area are mostly educated and usually in government service whereas those in the former mostly rely on their community’s dominance in their activities.
Those from Thanjavur do not wear their community on their sleeve, while those in the south do. “Any insult to their community ensures retaliation at an opportune moment,” says a political observer citing the example of top AIADMK ministers being put on the mat for nearly 10 days recently.
“The community considers it an insult and right now, there is an undercurrent at work in the southern districts which demands that those in power be taught a lesson on May 16.” What exactly happens will be known on May 19.