Chennai: Caste intricacies has tied up the elections in Tamil Nadu in several knots because of a cluttered four-cornered contest throwing up new factors.
The four corners in the poll contest are represented by AIADMK-led National Democratic Alliance -- comprising BJP, Pattali Makkal Katchi, Vijaykanth's Desiya Murpokku Dravid Kazhagham and three others; the DMK-Congress alliance (also including Vaiko's MDMK, Muslim League and the Left); besides debutant Kamal Hassan's Makkal Needhi Maiam and the AIADMK's breakaway faction led by T.T.V. Dinakaran.
The caste and community voting pattern of the 2014 elections, swept by AIADMK which won 37 out of 39 Lok Sabha seats (with a vote share of 44 per cent), show that the party got 50 per cent Thevar and 60 per cent of Uadayar votes, according to a CSDS study.
It also got 40 per cent of Vanniyar, 44 per cent Mudliyar, 49 per cent other OBCs and 42 per cent of Muslim votes. The party benefitted from the consolidation of OBC votes in its favour.
The DMK on the other hand got maximum support -- 47 per cent -- from Upper Caste followed by Mudaliyar (34 per cent) and Muslims (31 per cent).
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which won the sole seat of Kanniyakumari from where Pon Radhakrishnan secured a win by over 1.26 lakh votes, got maximum support from Thevars and Udayar (35 per cent each) and Vanniyar (40 per cent) communities apart from Christian fishermen and Nadar caste.
The key differences this year is that the two national parties BJP and the Congress have aligned with regional powerhouses AIADMK and DMK and the emergence of new factors in the form of Dinakaran and Kamal Hassan.
By making an impressive entry in the R.K. Nagar bypolls, Dinakaran's fight for late Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha's legacy makes him the "man to watch" in 2019 and could may well re-cast the caste lines.
According to 2011 census, Tamil Nadu with a population of 7.21 crore, had 20.1 per cent of it as Scheduled Castes. It has the second largest percentage of SC with 32 per cent, second to Puanjab which has 39.8 per cent.
The total electorate in the state is 5.86 crore. 18 per cent of its population is Dalit, one of the highest in the country, while seven Lok Sabha seats are reserved.
Among the larger states, Tamil Nadu also has one of the highest literacy rate (73.3 per cent) of SC population. There are only four districts in Tamil Nadu -- Thiruvarur, the Nilgiirs, Nagapattinam and Perambalu -- where the SC population is less than 30-40 per cent while in another two -- Viluppuram and Cuddalore, the SC population is less than 25-30 per cent.
Thevar, consisting of sub sects like Kallars, Maravars and Agamudiayars, is one of the key communities in the state commanding significant political influence particularly in south Tamil Nadu.
The AIADMK has got the full support of the community but fissures have appeared after the death of Jayalalitha and may lead to a split in Thevar votes.
There are seven reserved constituencies (SC) in Tamil Nadu which include Tiruvallur, Kancheepuram, Viluppuram, Nilgiris, Chidambaram, Nagapattinam and Tenkasi.
In Tenkasi, AIADMK's M. Vasanthi had won by 1.61 lakh votes last time. This time DMK's Dhanush Kumar is in fray as party has fielded a candidate on the seat after 28 years.
Tiruvallur is located close to Chennai and is represented by AIADMK's P. Venugopal who had won in 2009 as well. The constituency has strong Vanniyar presence.
In Nilgiri, A. Raja is trying his luck again after racing defeat in 2014, but AIADMK also did not trust sitting MP C. Gopalkrishnan and replaced him with M. Thiagarajan.
In Kanchipuram, K. Maratha of AIADMK is seeking another term in this saree hub facing a challenge from DMK's G. Selvam.
The Villupuram reserved seat is witnessing communal and caste violence, temple town Chidambaram will see contest between, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) chief Thol Thirumavalavan and AIADMK's P. Chandrasekhar.