Bengaluru/New Delhi: Among the farmers seen in Friday's rally in Delhi by several communist unions was a figure whom people not from Tamil Nadu might have taken for a genuinely poor farmer. The truth of P Ayyakannu will but startle many.

While he does hail from a farmer’s family in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, Ayyakannu has been a lawyer by profession, a rich one at that, for many years now. He has led several campaigns claiming he is fighting for the rights of the farmers.

That Ayakkannu is a lover of publicity is known from the ingenious methods through which he protests. The farmers are made to eat dead rats and snakes, roll on the ground half naked, blow conch shells with heads shaven and carry skulls during demonstrations.

The 68-year-old ‘poor farmer’ Ayyakannu, who happens to own an Audi car, is allegedly a part of Tamil Nadu's sand mining mafia, and he claims he could be a 'snake in the grass'!

In March this year, Ayyakannu had entered an altercation with a woman activist of the BJP, Nellaiyammal, who had slapped him after he had called her a "slut".

About 1,200 members of Ayyakannu's farmer organisation had arrived in Delhi early on Thursday with the skulls of farmers in the delta region, who had allegedly committed suicide. The group of theatrical rabble-rousers hit the streets of the national capital on Friday under the banner of the All-India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), a platform of 200 farmers’ groups that are communist by their own admission as they wield the ideological hammer-and-sickle flag.

Earlier, in 2017, BJP national secretary H Raja had alleged that Ayyakannu is a "fraud" and had taken money from a bank, which was not repaid.

Tamil Nadu BJP president Tamilisai Soundararajan had also wondered if there was an "unsaid motive" behind the farmers’ protest.

In 1977, Ayyakannu had contested from Musiri in Tamil Nadu as a Janata Party candidate in the Assembly election and finished fourth.