Wednesday, December 15, 2010



                It was a carnival of sorts in Pasumpon, a remote hamlet in south Tamil Nadu and birthplace of Pon Muthuramalingam, a freedom fighter widely acknowledged as a Thevar caste leader and a crusader for social justice. With politicians of all hues making a beeline for Pasumpon, the otherwise nondescript village in backward Ramanathapuram district came alive on Saturday. But, this year, the anniversary celebrations had some political significance too. 

With state elections barely six months away, political heavy-weights visited the decked-up hamlet along with their supporters to pay homage to Muthuramalinga Thevar as well as offer appeasements to his community. The backward caste Thevar and its various sub-sects form a sizeable chunk of the electorate in the southern districts. 

Though the two star political leaders,AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa and deputy chief minister, MK Stalin, who came to the village, claimed there was no political significance to the annual event, both made promises that brought cheer to the community. 

Deputy chief minister MK Stalin, who was among the first to arrive, at 9.45am, accompanied by some of his cabinet colleagues and officials, offered floral tributes at the memorial and announced that the DMK was taking up with the Centre the issue of naming the Madurai Airport after Muthuramalinga Thevar. He added that the DMK had always paid its respects to great leaders like Muthuramalinga Thevar, whether the party was in power or not. 

Jayalalithaa, who came a couple of hours later, announced she would offer a thanga kavasam' (golden armour) for the idol of Thevar within the temple "as per a request made to her by the temple priest". 

Chief minister and DMK president M Karunanidhi at a function in Chennai spoke at leangth about the Thevar leader, pointing out that he never failed to visit the memorial every year but could not do so this year owing to his disability. 

All the political parties, including affiliated caste outfits, make it an annual ritual to visit Pasumpon village during the last week of October every year to assure members of the Mukkulathor community that they are interested in the welfare of the most backward castes. 

In the past, the Thevars had largely identified themselves with the AIADMK, giving the party thumping majorities. But the 2009 Lok Sabha elections saw some surprise wins for the ruling DMK in the assembly segments in the southern districts, for long considered an AIADMK bastion. While much of the DMK gains in the south were credited to the Madurai strongman MK Alagiri, a tough battle is on the cards in the 2011 assembly elections with the AIADMK all set to put up a fight to regain lost ground. 

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