PMK drops sword, lion and Veer­ap­pan for im­age makeover

The New Indian Express - - TAMIL NADU / SOUTH - K EZHILARASAN @ Cud­dalore

NO roar­ing lions, no blood-drip­ping swords or sick­les, no Veer­ap­pan and no com­mu­nally-charged slo­gans. Af­ter earn­ing its share of brick­bats for the vir­u­lence of cadre, es­pe­cially dur­ing mas­sive con­fer­ences it holds ev­ery year, the Pat­tali Makkal Katchi is at­tempt­ing to rein­vent its im­age ahead of the so­cial jus­tice con­fer­ence in Villupu­ram on Sun­day.

PMK func­tionar­ies in Cud­dalore, one of the party’s pock­ets of strength, have asked youth wing cadre to shun the images of sick­les or swords, lion, and por­traits of slain for­est brig­and Veer­ap­pan on posters, ban­ners, T-shirts and stick­ers on their ve­hi­cles as they head to Villupu­ram. The cadre are also ad­vised to avoid provoca­tive slo­gans on caste lines dur­ing vil­lage and block-level meet­ings that are be­ing held ahead of the con­fer­ence on Sun­day.

To reach young cadre, dis­trictlevel func­tionar­ies are also cir­cu­lat­ing these guide­lines on so­cial me­dia.

This is an ev­i­dent rein­ven­tion for a party that has its foun­da­tion on Van­ni­yar caste pride. Among the im­agery em­ployed for this are the roar­ing lion and fire pot, as­so­ci­ated with Van­ni­yar pride; the blood-drip­ping sick­les and swords on T-shirts and ban­ners; and Veer­ap­pan por­traits hail­ing him as a hero from the com­mu­nity.

Com­mu­nally-charged slo­gans led to large-scale vi­o­lence and deaths at Marakkanam in 2013, and then Chief Min­is­ter J Jay­alalithaa read out some of these in the State As­sem­bly while dis­cussing the vi­o­lence.

“Now, our block and town-level func­tionar­ies be­long to var­i­ous castes. We need to bring in peo­ple from all com­mu­ni­ties to win pub­lic sup­port. We have told cadre to avoid is­sues that an­noy the gen­eral pub­lic,” said P Thama­raikan­nan, PMK State deputy pres­i­dent. As part of the im­age makeover, slain for­est brig­and Veer­ap­pan will no longer be on its posters.

De­fend­ing the new line, PMK spokesper­son and ad­vo­cate K Balu said, “PMK never an­nounced Veer­ap­pan as the party’s icon. Our party has only three lead­ers – Peri­yar, Ambed­kar and Karl Marx – as our guides.”

The ef­fort to bring about a code of con­duct has set off heated ar­gu­ments in the com­ments sec­tion in so­cial me­dia. A sec­tion ar­gue that the ex­clu­sive sym­bols of Van­ni­yar iden­tity like lion and fire pot were the party’s strength, which should not be shed for any rea­son.

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