Reservation for Vanniyars ‘only a temporary measure’ until caste census report becomes available, says Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami

Published : February 26, 2021 19:33 IST

At a protest by cadres of the PMK in front of the collectorate in Salem in support of their demand for reservation for Vanniyars, in January. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Just an hour prior to the announcement of election date for the Tamil Nadu Assembly polls, the State Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami moved a Bill on the floor of Assembly on February 26 granting 10.5 per cent internal reservation for the Vanniyarkula Kshathriyas (Vanniyars) within the total 20 per cent reservation of the Most Backward Classes (MBC) grouping, which contains some other major castes, including Kallar, Maravar and Ambalakarars. The Bill was later passed by the House.

The Chief Minister tabled the Bill in the afternoon session, the last session of the outgoing legislature, mainly to beat the Election Commission of India’s announcement of dates for the Tamil Nadu Assembly election that now falls on April 6. Following the announcement, the model code of conduct comes into force with immediate effect. The Vanniya grouping contains Vanniyars, Vanniya, Padayachi, Palli, Agnikula Khshathriya, etc. The Chief Minister also told the Assembly that this was a temporary measure since the Justice A. Kulasekaran Commission, appointed by the government to take a caste census across the State, was yet to complete its work.

With this Bill, the long-pending demand of Vanniyars, especially of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), a partner in the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) front has been fulfilled. The Bill had been put in cold storage by both the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and AIADMK governments fearing a caste fall-out. It was the then Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who divided the OBCs into Backward Classes and Most Backward Classes (20 per cent) in Tamil Nadu following a demand from Dr. S. Ramadoss, the founder leader of the PMK.

But Ramadoss was not happy with that arrangement saying that the group was too crowded to share the 20 per cent reservation. (Tamil Nadu has 69 per cent reservation.) Since then he has been demanding exclusive reservation for Vanniyars. The PMK organised Statewide stirs demanding 20 per cent reservation for Vanniyars. Ramadoss and his son Anbumani Ramadoss also met the Chief Minister and pressed for the same. As elections drew closer, a frantic AIADMK tried to retain the PMK within its fold. But Ramadoss remained stubborn saying that unless his demand on reservation was okayed, he would not commit on the alliance. Senior AIADMK Ministers met him twice and held talks. Later, Ramadoss accepted the concept of internal reservation.

The present slab of MBC reservation has been divided into three slabs – 10.5 for Vanniyars, 7 per cent for Denotified Communities and 2.5 per cent for other castes. Ambalakarars, Maravas, Kallars, Punnan Vettuva Gounder, Telungapatti Chettis, Thottiya Naickers, Urail Gounders, Valayars and Vettaikarars are among the major castes in the Denotified Communities, which has a total strength of 68 castes.

The total number of castes in the MBC is 109, which means that Vanniyar and its subgroups would enjoy the lion’s share in the new reservation slab system, while 68 castes vie for 7 per cent with the remaining 41 getting a mere 2.5 per cent. The OBC list in Tamil Nadu has a total of 252 castes.

The Supreme Court in 1990 ruled that reservation should not be more than 50 per cent. But the Tamil Nadu government, under the leadership of then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa passed the Tamil Nadu Act of 1994 in the Assembly and received constitutional protection for the same by getting it included it in the Ninth Schedule.

The 69 per cent of reservation in Tamil Nadu (in percentage) after the present Bill on February 26 stands as such: Backward Class Total: 30 per cent (Non Muslim 26.5, Muslim 3.5); MBC 20 per cent (Vanniyars 10.5, DC 7, other castes 2.5); Scheduled Caste 18 per cent (Arunthathiyar 3.5); Scheduled Tribes 1; Total 69 per cent.