The PMK, which has been in the political wilderness for a while, put up a show of strength at its Vanniyar Youth Festival in the tourist hotspot of Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu. The party of former Union Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss managed to rustle up a crowd of a few lakh Vanniyar youth as a sort of an answer to Vijayakanth's DMDK party that eroded its vote base in both the 2009 Lok Sabha Poll, where Mr Ramadoss' party drew a blank, and the 2011 Assembly elections where it managed to win just three out of the 30 seats it had wrested from the DMK-led alliance in the state.
Although the PMK had, all along, insisted that it was not a party meant only for the Vanniyars - a powerful community of traders concentrated in the northern belt of the Tamil Nadu - recent electoral setbacks have forced it to go back to its traditional vote base. At the Mahabalipuram gathering, party founder Dr S Ramadoss played to the Vanniyar gallery by reviving old demands in a new meet! Reservation for the Vanniyar youth in education and employment, a series of protests between July and August, a fair caste-based census and its pet prohibition call were the resolutions passed.
For more than a decade, the father-son doctor duo seemed to have had their finger on the pulse of winning alliances; moving from one coalition to another, earning the party the nickname of 'fence sitter'. But smarting from what the party called "shabby treatment" by the two Dravidian juggernauts, the PMK recently vowed to maintain a safe distance from both the AIADMK and the DMK. Does that ring a bell? That's just the sort of detached innings 'Captain' Vijayakanth set out to play when he launched the DMDK. But the actor-politician, who calls himself the 'Black MGR', realised his bread would be buttered by being in an alliance. Winning 29 seats in the assembly, many felt, was possible only because his party rode on the massive Jayalalithaa wave that swept Tamil Nadu last year. The feat catapulted the action hero as the Opposition Leader; a role that soon made him a "villain" in the eyes of the ruling party and landed the DMDK out of the AIADMK-led alliance!
Back to the PMK. These are tough times for Ramdoss & Co. The top brass is now mired in a criminal case in Tamil Nadu. Mr Ramadoss too has been recently chargesheeted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in an Indore Medical College scam. However, in the state, you just cannot write off any party. The PMK may not have won many seats but it does have its vote share among the Vanniyars; not to forget women voters who identify with its anti-alcohol crusade which could tilt the scales in any close contest. One reason why the party, whose election symbol is the mango, is moving back to its roots. On the sidelines, there are soft targets like actor Vijay, whose film posters showing him smoking are enough to stay in the news.