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Nadar vote bank remains divided

Sanchita Das  |  Chennai 

The Nadar community of Tamil Nadu has been in the spotlight for some months now. When Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani presided over the share transfer of the Tamilnad Mercantile Bank (TMB) from C Sivasankaran to the members of the Nadar community on 16 February, he was told that the move would be politically beneficial for the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Similarly, after the controversial "encounter" death of a Nadar ""Pannyar"" the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief, M Karunanidhi, gave a party ticket to his widow.
But, whether the Nadars will allow themselves to be enticed either by the ADMK-BJP alliance or the DMK-Congress alliance remains a political poser.
Who are these people who are being wooed so frenetically by all political parties in Tamil Nadu?
Predominantly toddy tappers who have evolved into traders, the Nadar community of the state is very influential with its control over the fireworks industry, big Tamil media houses and educational institutions in the southern districts of the state.
Sivakasi, the hub of the fireworks industry, is the stronghold of the Nadars. Moreover, politically the community holds sway in the districts of Kanyakumari, Tirunelvelli and Tuticorin.
But political observers do not see the community voting as a monolith. Congress's K Kamaraj Nadar becoming the Chief Minister of the state was the community's biggest political achievement in the state. A certain residual loyalty to the Congress still lingers.
Historically, conversion to Christianity is said to have helped the Nadars in their social ascendance. However, the mass conversion in the early-1980s in the Tirunelvelli district sparked a revival of Hinduism in the community.
The weakening Congress in the Tamil Nadu also saw many Hindus in the community migrating to the Hindu Munani and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Christian votes got divided between the Congress and the now defunct Tamil Manila Congress (TMC).
"Today you will find a Nadar leader in every party," a political observer points out. If the Congress has the former MP, Dhanushkodi Adityan, AIADMK has a sitting member in PH Pandian (who has been denied a nomination this time) and DMK has the matinee idol, Sarath Kumar. Alladi Aruna, previously in ADMK and DMK, has now joined the BJP.
Interestingly, Pannyar (who is better known as a local don) is reported to have helped AIADMK win the crucial Sattankulam by-elections, which came close on the heels of Jayalalithaa's Anti-Conversion Bill.
Sattankulam has a sizable Christian Nadar population. It is believed that Pannyar, subsequently, became a thorn for the party as he got embroiled in various scams and had to be "removed".
The BJP's involvement in the TMB share transfer settlement orchestrated by the Swadeshi Jagran Manch convenor, S Gurumurthy, is also seen as an apt pre-election move.
Returning the shares to the "rightful" Nadars was highlighted by the presence of LK Advani. However, there is still a segment of the community that remains unimpressed and is threatening to fight the accord.
The Nadars constitutes 12 per cent of the State's population, but the community is financially very strong. Beyond the fireworks industry at Sivakasi, it has the influential Tamil media house - Thanthi - in its fold.
The company is run by Sivanthi Adityan, whose brother Ramachandra Adityan floated Malai Murasu. There is also Dinakaran, founded by the late K P Kandaswamy, who was known for switching allegiance between AIADMK-founder MG Ramachandran and Karunanidhi.
Other prominent Nadars include HCL chief Shiv Nadar, Penguin's David Davidar, chess grandmaster Manuel Aron, physicist Ranjan Roy Daniel and former Chief of Naval Staff OS Dawson.
The Nadars have come into the focus in the current election campaign only on account of an assassination and the share transfer of the Tamilnad Mercantile Bank. But the Nadar vote bank remains divided.

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First Published: Wed, March 17 2004. 00:00 IST
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