Armstrong's Murder Fallout: Could VCK Leave DMK Alliance To Garner Dalit Support In Tamil Nadu?

S Rajesh

Jul 09, 2024, 06:06 PM | Updated Jul 11, 2024, 11:43 AM IST

VCK chief Thirumavalavan, centre, Edappadi Palaniswami, left, and Chief Minister M K Stalin.
VCK chief Thirumavalavan, centre, Edappadi Palaniswami, left, and Chief Minister M K Stalin.

The possibility of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) — a party that primarily draws its support from Dalits — leaving the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) led alliance has become a topic of discussion after the huge outrage over the murder of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) state president K Armstrong.

Backing the BSP's demand for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), VCK chief Thirumavalavan also stated that those arrested were not the real accused.

Such comments were not expected from a long-standing ally. 

Political commentators often dismiss this possibility, as the VCK and the DMK are considered to have a good relationship due to their similar political ideologies. Neither of them are pro-Hindu and both enjoy the support of minorities.

However, there are reasons due to which the VCK could consider switching to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) led alliance.

A decision to quit in the context of Armstrong’s murder could give it an opportunity to show that it is standing up for Dalits and that it is their only hope.

It could also do so in order to get more seats in the assembly elections. There is no doubt that the party is ambitious. While it eventually had to settle for two seats in the Lok Sabha elections, it had demanded four seats. During the last assembly elections, it was allotted six seats, on par with the Left parties.

The weakened AIADMK is likely to welcome the VCK to strengthen its alliance and the latter is expected to integrate well into the current dynamics of that grouping.

Apart from the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), the AIADMK currently has an alliance with the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), which is alleged to be the political arm of the now banned radical Islamist Popular Front of India (PFI).

A number of parties which primarily draw their support from Muslims often talk of a Muslim-Dalit alliance (Jai Bhim, Jai Meem) and the SDPI is no exception. The same is spoken of by the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). 

What Could Be The Implications Of Such A Switch?

While the vote share secured by VCK candidates may not be huge — 2.25 per cent in 2024 Lok Sabha elections, and 0.99 per cent in the 2021 assembly elections, it enjoys a lot of support among Dalits and can thus influence the outcome in constituencies where they are a substantial part of the population. 

In places like Vikravandi, where all three parties, ie, the DMK, Naam Tamilar Katchi and the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) have fielded candidates from the Vanniyar community, which is dominant in the area, the Dalit vote pulled in by the VCK could play a crucial role in tilting the results in favour of the DMK.

Further, if such a shift were to happen, it would almost rule out the possibility of PMK leaving the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to join the AIADMK alliance in 2026. 

This is because the VCK and the PMK do not enjoy a good relationship. There have been a number of caste conflicts among Vanniyars, who form the main support base of the PMK and the Dalits.

The AIADMK too could lose Vanniyar votes if it allies with the VCK. The Vanniyar votes might then consolidate with the PMK or move to the DMK.

Whether this could substantially influence the outcome of 2026 assembly elections cannot be said now as there are factors at play as well, but it would be a setback for the DMK both morally and in terms of poll arithmetic.

If there is any small DMK ally that is not very dependent on it to get votes, and brings a good number of votes for the alliance due to its own support base, it is the VCK. Thus, losing it would definitely be big a loss to the DMK.

Also Read: Murder Of BSP Leader Armstrong In Chennai And The Reality Of Dalit Politics In Tamil Nadu

S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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