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Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy or EVR Periyar has never been a part of electoral politics but his name was never missed in any of the polls in Tamil Nadu. EVKS Elangovan (74), his grandson, has been fielded in the bypoll for Erode East assembly constituency scheduled for February 27 on behalf of the Secular Progressive Alliance led by the DMK.
Though Dravidar Kazhagam founded by Periyar is known for its uncompromising stand on various social issues, none of his family members took active part in the functioning of the movement. EVKS Elangovan, a former president of the Tamil Nadu unit of the Congress party, is a firebrand speaker known for his controversial speeches. The bypoll to Erode East assembly seat was necessitated due to the untimely demise of Thirumagan Evera, MLA and son of EVKS Elangovan. Though younger son Sanjay Sampath was expected to contest the bypoll, Congress party chose his father Elangovan instead.
Elangovan represented Sathyamanagalam assembly constituency during 1984. He contested unsuccessfully on behalf of actor Sivaji Ganesan Tamizagha Munnetra Munnani in 1989 from Bavani Sagar constituency and got 8,381 votes. In 2004 Lok Sabha polls, he was elected from Gobichettipalayam constituency, and held the post of minister of state for textiles during the UPA-I regime. In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, he lost to OPS Ravindranath Kumar of the AIADMK in Theni constituency by a margin of 76,672 votes. His son Thirumagan Evera, however, fighting on a Congress ticket, defeated Yuvaraja of the TMC, who fought under AIADMK’s two leaves symbol in the last assembly poll.
Thanthai Periyar was the second son of Erode Venkatta Naicker and Chinnamal. He had an elder brother EV Krishnasami born on September 1877 and two younger sisters Ponnuthaiammal (1881) and Kannammal (1891).
EVKS Elangovan, a former president of the Tamil Nadu unit of the Congress party, is a firebrand speaker known for his controversial speeches.
Krishnasami had a son named Rangaram through his first wife Nagammal. Rangaram died in England while pursuing a medical course at the age of 20. The couple also had a daughter Thayarammal. Krishnasami later married Rangarajaammal and had three sons including EVK Sampath and two daughters.
Sampath was a well-known politician and his wife Sulochana Sampath had a long innings with the AIADMK. EVKS Elangovan is Sampath’s son. Elangovan has three brothers, Mathivanan, Iniyan Sampath and Gowthaman, and sisters Nagammal and Anbu Ezhil.
Periyar’s younger sister Kannammals husband was S Ramasamy Naicker. The couple had no children. However, Ramasamy Naicker’s second wife Ponnammal had two sons and three daughters. Rajathi alias Subbulashmi, Gandhi, Sarojini and sons Santhanam and Sami. They were all treated as Kannammal’s children.
Another sister of Periyar, Ponnuthaiammal, married S Ramasamy Naicker’s elder brother Kalyanasundaram Naicker. They had two children Ammayi Ammal and Abbaiyan. Ponnuthaiammal died at the age of 25. After his niece Ammayi Ammal became a widow, Periyar conducted a second marriage for her.
In 1922, when Periyar got arrested for picketing liquor shops and was jailed, his wife Nagammal and sister Kannammal spearheaded the agitation Nagammai, Periyar’s first wife, passed away due to illness on 11 May 1933.
Only a few of Periyar’s family members had actively participated in politics since then. EVK Sampath, once considered a successor to Periyar, lost the chance to be named his successor as he had difference of opinion with Periyar and joined hands with CN Annadurai and joined the DMK. He developed differences with Anna too and along with poet Kannadhasan and others launched Tamil Desiya Katchi. The party failed to win any seat in 1962 general polls. He merged his party with the Congress in 1964. His wife Sulochana Sampth was organising secretary of the AIADMK for a long time. She passed away in 2015. Her son and Elangovan’s brother Iniyan Sampath stayed with the AIADMK.
Only a few of Periyar’s family members had actively participated in politics since then. EVK Sampath, once considered a successor to Periyar, lost the chance to be named his successor as he had difference of opinion with Periyar and joined hands with CN Annadurai and joined the DMK.
If we look at the political contributions of members of the Periyar family, EVK Sampath stands out. He worked with K Anbazaghan on Puthu Vazvu magazine. Dravidian stalwart Anna appreciated Sampath’s speech that India is not a country but a sub-continent with several countries in ‘Dravida Naadu’ published on September 1957. Though Periyar was committed to atheism, social justice, self-respect and feminism, EVKS Elangovan had delivered many speeches that were not in line with Periyar’s thoughts.
Actor Kamal Haasan while extending his party Makkal Neethi Mayyam’s support to EVKS Elangovan candidature had called him the grandson of Periyar. But is yet to be seen if Elangovan can live up to his grandfather’s legacy.
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