Will AIADMK’s outreach to the minorities pay off this election?

CM has been seen making efforts to reach out to them during his campaign.

With AIADMK co-coordinator and Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami making efforts to woo Muslims to the party’s fold during his campaign, the question of whether the strategy will pay off during the Assembly election, despite the regional party being an ally of the BJP, arises.

Even though the party is not seen as one that banks on enormous electoral support from religious minorities, it has not lost sight of the importance of their backing. This explains its “outreach” towards the minorities, explain senior party leaders.

As a measure of this approach, a few days ago in Kancheepuram town, when Mr. Palaniswami heard the prayer call from a mosque, suspended his campaign for a while. On Sunday, he attended a prayer at a church in Karamadai, on the outskirts of Coimbatore city. In the last couple of weeks, he has interacted with delegations from the Muslim community in Ramanathapuram and Coimbatore districts. “He is planning to have similar meetings everywhere,” says A. Anwhar Raajhaa, AIADMK minorities’ wing secretary and former Ramanathapuram MP. On Saturday, Mr. Palaniswami asked Muslims not to harbour apprehension about “certain laws” of the Centre.

There have been varying accounts within and outside the party about the following that the AIADMK has among the two important constituents of religious minorities — Muslims and Christians — who account for about 12% of the State’s population, as per the 2011 Census, with the former constituting 5.86% (around 42.3 lakh) and the latter 6.12% (44 lakh).

According to one school of thought, the AIADMK enjoyed better support of the minorities when the party’s founder, M.G. Ramachandran, was at the helm of its affairs, than during the days of his successor, Jayalalithaa. But the other view is that the support of the minorities to the party, under MGR, was only marginally higher than what it got subsequently. In the last one-and-a-half years, the AIADMK’s support to the BJP government at the Centre, on issues such as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the dilution of Article 370, has only contributed to the perception in certain quarters that the gap between the regional party and the minorities is on the rise.

But dismissing the notion, Mr. Raajhaa emphasised that the AIADMK’s relationship with minorities was a “natural and permanent” one, whereas an electoral alliance was “transient.”

A. Mohammedjan, AIADMK Rajya Sabha MP and former Minister, said: “We, in the AIADMK, have never discriminated people on communal lines. This can be seen from the Edappadiar [Palaniswami] regime’s steps of increasing the annual subsidy for Hajj pilgrimage from ₹6 crore to ₹10 crore, hiking the subsidy of ₹20,000 to ₹37,000 for Christian pilgrims going from Tamil Nadu to Jerusalem. and declaring a public holiday for the Thai poosam festival.”

Another office bearer said the party leadership should display its affinity towards minorities more in substance than in form.

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