There must be quotas for everyone, every community, said leader of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, addressing an election rally at Sholinganallur, Tamil Nadu’s largest assembly constituency. Basking in the comfort of the recently accorded 10.5 per cent internal reservation for the Vanniyar community that he represents, Ramadoss said that the agitations he and his party had launched for one of Tamil Nadu’s largest communities had borne fruit just before the elections, and he wishes the same kind of benefit for every community in the state. The tussle for Tamil Nadu became all the more a no-holds-barred caste battle with these announcements from the PMK.
The E Palaniswami-led AIADMK government had passed a bill on February 26, just minutes before the model code of conduct came into force, allowing a 10.5 per cent internal reservation among the most backward castes category for Vanniyars. This had been a long-pending demand of the PMK, an ally of the AIADMK, which had even held demonstrations in December for such a quota.
The PMK is contesting from 23 of the 234 seats in the Tamil Nadu assembly as part of the NDA. Ramadoss has been campaigning aggressively in assembly segments with a significant Vanniyar population.
“Absolutely. My party’s policy is that every community in Tamil Nadu should get reservation separately, according to their population and their social backwardness. When I say every community, there are nearly 350 communities in Tamil Nadu. So they have to get reservation according to their population and social backwardness,” he told News18 in an interview.
The 10.5 per cent quota that the Vanniyars have got has already been questioned in the high court on whether it holds legal validity, but Ramadoss is unperturbed.
“Even the 69 per cent reservation has been questioned in the Supreme Court. The ten per cent (quota for) economically and socially weaker sections… That has been questioned in the Supreme Court. Nothing happened. Anybody can file cases in High Court or Supreme Court. There is no stay on this. An Act in the assembly is an Act till another Act comes to override it,” he said.
Asked how many will directly benefit from the quota given in February, he said the Vanniyars, with a population of 20 per cent, barely get into about two to three per cent of group 1 government jobs.
“An example of how backward this community is — 74 years after independence, this is the first time last year that a candidate from the Vanniyar community has come into the IAS into the Tamil Nadu cadre directly. After 74 years, a community that is the single largest community in Tamil Nadu… It has taken 74 years for one community to get a Tamil Nadu cadre IAS,” he said.
While admitting that the quota announced before elections will have a positive impact in the polls, he said it is not a caste issue but a development and social justice issue, as the development of a community with such a high population will lead to the overall development of the state ultimately.