Chennai: In an eleventh-hour move to attract sections of the electorate, the AIADMK Government in Tamil Nadu on Friday tabled and passed a Bill providing 10.5% exclusive reservation in government jobs and higher education for Vanniyars (Vanniyakula Kshatriya) and announced waiver of loans obtained by women's Self Help Groups (SHG) and pledging of jewels. The developments came just before the Election Commission of India announced the schedule for the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections.
The Bill for Vanniyar reservation virtually seals the alliance between the AIADMK and the Pattali Makkal Katchi, a party representing the interests of the Vanniyar community, a Most Backward Caste, with considerable presence in north and north-western Tamil Nadu. The AIADMK's own support base in the north is weak and given that a Dalit party Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi is with the DMK, both of which are strong in the north, the ruling party needs the PMK in the region.
The PMK owes its growth to championing the Vanniyar cause demanding its devaluation from the Backward Castes. In the 1980s, the Vanniyar outfit had led to violent agitations cutting down numerous highway trees bringing normal life to a standstill. Police firing had killed nearly two dozen agitators. Later in 1989, the Karunanidhi Government created a separate Most Backward Caste within by carving out 20% of the available reservation for the OBCs. Subsequently, the PMK wanted more - it demanded exclusive reservation for its Vanniyar community.
In another announcement, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami said the Government would waive all loans taken by women SHGs. Besides, loans obtained from cooperative institutions by pledging up to six sovereign jewels would be waived.
Over the past few days, Palaniswami has made numerous populist announcements with an eye on elections. Presently it has satisfied a good percentage of two communities, the Vanniyars and the Devendrakula Velalar (by grouping seven Dalit subsects). However, while it would help in consolidating votes of these communities, the AIADMK could risk antagonising other communities.