Former DMK chief M Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi recently claimed that there was no space for caste-based politics in her party.

As a statement, it was simultaneously both ironical and farcical.

For, one look at the DMK's candidates list, it will be more than clear that it smacks of caste politics. Most of them, it is apparent, have been chosen after taking into consideration the local caste matrix. 

As it happens, Kanimozhi's own choice of constituency, Thoothukudi, seems to have been picked for a particular reason.

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Kanimozhi's mother Rajathi Ammal — Karunanidhi's third wife — is a Nadar, and Thoothukudi is dominated by Nadars.

When this was pointed out to Kanimozhi, she sheepishly played down this fact and tried to spin it as if she had been associated with the constituency for long. If anything, Kanimozhi has all along been a Chennai-centric political figure who maintained her political profile through her Rajya Sabha membership.

Still, one can give the benefit of doubt if the DMK's other choices had been any better. Take for example, the now infamous Vellore constituency. Kathir Anand, son of former minister Durai Murugan, is a Vanniyar, and the constituency is typically dominated by Vanniyars and Mudaliars.

Or take the DMK's North Chennai candidate, Dr Kalanidhi Veeraswamy. He is Telugu speaking, and the constituency has a sizable chunk of Telugu-speaking people.

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Of course, it doesn't stop with this. The DMK has given the Muslim-dominated Ramanathapuram to Indian Union Muslim league. The Udayars-filled Perambalur has gone to Parivendhar of India Jananayaga Katchi and Namakkal, which has Gounders in a majority, has been offered to Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi.

"If you analyse carefully, one of the major factors that clinched it for almost all the candidates is their respective castes. It is no secret," says S Kavin, a political analyst.

But to be fair, it is just not the DMK which is using this caste card. But DMK's mistakes seem egregious because it is the one that is trying to play holier-than-thou and sounding all sanctimonious.

The ruling AIADMK in fact struck an alliance with the PMK only because its Vanniyar votes are pretty important in Northern Tamil Nadu. The AIADMK has carefully earmarked for the PMK the constituencies of Dharmapuri, Cuddalore, Arakkonam, Villupuram and Sriperumbudur — all dominated by Vanniyars.

Mudaliars form a good chunk in Vellore, and the AIADMK has given that seat to AC Shanmugam’s Puthiya Neethi Katchi. Telugu-speaking people dominate north Chennai where Vijayakanth’s DMDK, which carries a decent clout among Telugus in TN (Vijayakanth belongs to the community), is contesting.

The AIADMK, which has a solid plank of Gounders and Thevars, has retained Salem, Namakkal, Erode, Karur, Tirupur, Pollachi, Theni, Madurai, Tirunelveli, Myladuthurai and Nagapattinam among other constituencies. No prizes for guessing as to which castes dominate these West and South TN constituencies.

The BJP, for its part, has fielded its state unit leader Tamizhisai Soundarajan, a Nadar, from Thoothukudi. The Congress has given ticket to P Chidambaram's son Karti Chidambaram, a Chettiar, to contest from the Chettiar belt of Sivaganga.

"After all these years, it is a crying shame that politicians still think in terms of caste. It seems worse in Tamil Nadu because the Dravidian parties have always claimed that their aim was to abolish caste. If anything, in their 50 years of rule, it has got worse," says Arivu Mani, a poet and writer.