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Dravidian parties ( ), include an array of regional political parties in the state of Tamil Nadumarker, Indiamarker which trace their origins and ideologies either directly or indirectly to the Dravidian movement of Periyar E. V. Ramasamy.The Dravidian movement was based on the linguistic divide in India,

where most of the Northern Indian, Eastern Indian and Western Indian languages are classified as Indo-Aryan, whereas the South Indian languages as Dravidian.Thus Dravidian politics has developed by associating itself to the Dravidian community. The primary goal of Dravidian politics was to achieve social equality, but it later championed the cause of ending domination of North India on politics and economy of Tamil Nadu (a south Indian state). Thus the Dravidian politics incorporated in itself elements of Tamil Nationalism and had found support only in Tamil Nadu.

Most Dravidian parties are offshoots of Dravidar Kazhagam (DK); however, there are also a few other parties in Tamil Nadu that did not arise from DK directly. Nevertheless, both the former and the latter are considered as Dravidian parties because of the similarities of their ideals and goals.Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and its political rival All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) have been the major players of the Dravidian parties since the mid-1960s.Since the 1967 legislative assembly elections, only the DMK or the AIADMK have formed governments in Tamil Nadu. These two parties are political rivals.Barring political alliances with the DMK or AIADMK, since the 1990s, no other political party has won more than a few seats in the Indian parliament or state legislative assembly from Tamil Nadu. Since 1996, members of the DMK and AIADMK have held portfolios in the cabinet of the central Indian government. Other major Dravidian parties are Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Pattali Makkal Katchi and Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam.Political media in Dravidian politics is well noted, with five of the seven chief ministers from these parties being directly involved in the Tamil cinema, either as script writers or actors. Recently television channels owned by these parties have been used for political propaganda purposes.

Rise of Dravidian politics


Most Indian population are classified as Aryans and Dravidians. Although genetics have thrown doubts into the racial aspect of this classification, the classification stays true on the basis of the language families. Most northern languages are classified as Aryan, whereas most southern are Dravidian languages. Sanskrit, a classical language of the Aryan group, was considered as a sacred language, whereas it was a wide spread opinion in Madras Presidency, that their tongues were treated inferior. The linguistic divide was even more prominent with political dominance of Brahmins in South India.In early 20th century, the Brahmins, who occupied the higher strata in the Indian caste system, accounted for 3% of the population in Madras Presidency, but yet held 60 to 79% positions of major government departments. It was observed by some leaders from the south that Brahmins were Aryans and hence non-natives who had taken away the due place of the sons of the soil.The antipathy on Sanskrit compounded with the animosity with the Brahimins in Madras Presidency paved the way to the rise of Dravidian politics.

Early Dravidian politics

The Dravidian politics find their overall origin to efforts taken by Iyothee Thass in late 1800s. His efforts brought together the lower caste Dravidians and thus Dravida Mahajana Sabha was established in 1891. The major leap in the Dravidian politics arose with the formation of Madras United League by non-Brahmin intelects, who considered the dominance of Brahmins in civil administration a threat to the non-Brahmin majority.The League which was initially started as a workgroup that helped non-Brahmin students in Madrasmarker with accommodation later grew into a political party under the efforts of leaders like Sir Pitti Theagaroya Chetty and Dr. T. M. Nair. The party was christened South Indian Liberal Federation (S. I. L. F.) - popularly known as Justice party.

Justice party era

A limited self governance was introduced in British India after the World War I. While Justice party saw this as an opportunity to displace Brahmin dominance, the British government considered it favourable, since the Indian National Congress which was spearheading the Indian independence movement was itself dominated by Brahmins. Justice party emerged as a winner in the 1920 general elections and brought about the reforms it had preached for, including communal reservation through affirmative action for the first time in the country, and bring temples under state control. But soon after the electoral success the animosity between Tamil and Telugu members depened and thus weakening the party. Nevertheless, the Justice party electorally dominated the presidency for 17 years until it was defeated by the Indian National Congress party in 1937. Although out of power, Justice party headed agitations across the Province against the introduction of Hindi as a compulsory subject of study in schools by a Congress-led government, which lead to the detainment of scores of Tamil scholars, academics and Justice Party leaders. This and other struggles for social justice helped create the social base of what emerged as the Dravidian Movement.

Dravidar Kazhagam

During the years of decline in Justice party's popularity, Periyar E. V. Ramasamy was spearheading the Self-respect movement. In 1938, by then badly weakened Justice party sought the leadership of Periyar and thus Periyar became its president. Later in 1944, Periyar changed the name of the party as Dravidar Kazhagam (Dravidian organisation in English). This move was opposed by some members of the Justice party and those rebels under the leadership of P. T. Rajan kept contesting in elections until 1957 as "Justice party". To the contrary, Periyar as the president of Dravidiar Kazhagam considered that contesting in elections will lead to compromises in principles and withdrew Dravida Kazhagam from parliamentary politics.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

Birth of DMK

In 1947, when India attained independence, Periyar called for abandoning the celebrations by the members of the Dravidar Kazhagam. According to him, the Indian National Congress, which was fighting for independence of India from the colonial Britishmarker rule, was dominated by Brahmins. Hence he conceived that an independent India would bring South Indians, especially Tamils, under the dominance of Brahmins and North Indians. In other words, according to Periyar independence would lead to replacement of British dominance with Brahmin and North Indian dominance, and hence an independent nation called Dravida Nadu for the South Indians would be the best solution. Consequently Periyar declared 15 August 1947, the day of Indian independence, as a day of mourning. This move was opposed by other leaders within the party, including C. N. Annadurai. Annadurai conceived that independence as an overall achievement of India rather than solely that of Aryan North.This personal difference between the leaders climaxed when Periyar married a lady much younger than himself.The leaders of the rebel fragment eventually formed a new party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or DMK (Progressive Dravidian Organisation in English) in 1949.

Independent Dravida Nadu

Although initially both DK and DMK sought an independent Dravida Nadu, DK later moved on to work on bringing social changes whereas DMK leaders such as C. N. Annadurai and E. V. K. Sampath endeavoured to achieve the goal through parliamentary election processes.However, Sampath who had earlier forfeited his heirloom with Periyar to join DMK, saw the call for Dravida Nadu was turning out to be an unreal goal.Moreover, Sampath expressed concerns over using film stars for popularity of the party. His views brought him to cross swords with the major leaders of the party and eventually caused the first split in DMK. Sampath left DMK to float his own party called Tamil National Party.Although leaders like Annadurai were firm on their separatist stance, the reorganisation of states in India on linguistic basis removed Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam speaking regions from Madras Presidency leaving behind a predominantly Tamil Madras State. Giving in to realities, Annadurai and his DMK changed the call of independent Dravida Nadu for Dravidians to independent Tamil Nadu for Tamils. Annadurai saw that remaining in the Indian Union meant accepting linguistic domination and economic backwardness. Nevertheless, the Sino-Indian war brought about changes in the Indian constitution. The Sixteenth Amendment (most popularly known as the Anti-Secessionist Amendment) banned any party with sectarian principles from contesting with elections. Consequently DMK preferred to keep the issue on Dravida Nadu on the backburner.From then on DMK's main targeted the dominance of North Indians in the Union Government of India.

DMK government

After dropping the demand for independent Dravida Nadu, DMK started concentrating on pointing out the problems arising out of the disparity between North and South India. The DMK considered that the south was neglected by delays in sanctioning development projects and allotment of funds. Thus the Congress-led Central government became its major target. Immediately after the Indian independence the Congress party's was popular throughout India and thus formed the governments in many states including Madras Presidency. Even so, Congress party was refused of absolute majority in the presidency in the state's first election. By the 1960s the popularity of the Congress party was in a steady decline.

Moreover DMK also perceived that the attempts to declare Hindi as the sole national language of India was an attempt impose an Aryan-language on the unwilling people of the South. According to the terms of the Indian constitution from January 26, 1965, English as an official language of India would come to an end and Hindi was to be used as the sole official language. However, the Madras Anti-Hindi agitation in 1965 compelled the then Central Government in India change its language policy to allow English to continue as an official language.Although DMK did not directly involve in the violence that marred the agitation the protest itself catapulted DMK to political power in the State in the 1967 legislative elections.

The electoral victory in 1967 is also reputed to an electoral fusion among the non-Congress parties to avoid a split in the Opposition votes. Rajagopalachari, a former senior leader of the Congress party, had by then left the Congress and launched the right-wing Swatantra Party. He played a vital role in bringing about the electoral fusion amongst the opposition parties to align against the Congress.

Split in DMK and birth of AIADMK

MGR and split from DMK

M. G. Ramachandran, popularly known as MGR, was an actor of Tamil cinema and a well known propagator of Dravidian ideologies in his movies since 1953. In the 1970s as the then treasurer of DMK, he had brought his fans to the party and also played a vital part in popularising the party.The political feud between MGR and the party's president Karunanidhi arose from the latter calling himself the "Mujib of Tamil Nadu" and had been ongoing since the death of Annadurai. Soon after the electoral victory of DMK in 1971, some of senior members expressed concern that MGR's popularity was growing strong within the caders.Karunanidhi made several attempts to weaken MGR's position within the party, to which MGR retaliated with corruption charges and a call for a boycott of the party's General Council.DMK's general council suspended MGR from the party stating that he had involved himself in "anti party activities". Although MGR had lost support from the top ranking leaders within the DMK, the strong public reaction following his suspension had demonstrated his popular support within the party's volunteers. Inspired by this support from the party's lower cadres and his fans MGR launched his own party All India Anna DMK (named after Annadurai).

AIADMK government

MGR presented his new party to Indira Gandhi as the regional equivalent of her Congress party. Indira Gandhi herself had been heading her party, which she split from the Indian National Congress with the support of lower cadres and opposition from senior party leaders.Thus AIADMK could show itself as an equally strong alternative to that of DMK with which Congress (I) could ally. From then on, the Congress (I) fought elections in the State in alliance with one of the two parties. Ever since then the Dravidian parties have helped the Congress (I) sustain itself in the State, but yet with limited ambitions. In 1977, the DMK government, led by Karunanidhi, was dismissed under corruption charges by the Central government of India, led by Congress (I), which had by then allied with AIADMK.

Further divisions

Divisions in DMK

The Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (Progressive Dravidian Renaissance Organisation in English) or MDMK is yet another offshoot of the DMK. It was formed in May 1994, after V. Gopalswamy (or popularly known as Vaiko), a senior leader and Member of Parliament from DMK, was expelled from the party. Barring, perhaps, to the more radical support to an independent Tamil Eelam in the Sri Lankan crisis,the MDMK do not have major ideological differences with the other Dravidian parties. MDMK shares its goals with the DMK and AIADMK in respect to State autonomy, constitutional protection to the reservation formula and making Tamil an official language of the Indian Union. In 2004, Tamil film director and actor, T. Rajendar who was earlier expelled from DMK launched the All India Latchiya Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (All India Principled Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in English).

Divisions in AIADMK

Soon after MGR's death in 1987, his wife Janaki Ramachandran took over as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.This appointment was opposed by former actress and a politician J Jayalalitha. The resistance from Jayalalithaa eventually led to the dismissal of the AIADMK government (the shortest lived government in the history of Tamil Nadu), by the then Central Government of India led by Rajiv Gandhi. The antagonism built up and the AIADMK split into two fragments.The Election Commission of India refused to accept either of them as the successor of the original party and separate electoral symbols were allocated.The faction led by MGR's widow chose to use two doves; with a large dove holding leafy branch in its beak, as if to feed that to the smaller dove. Whereas, the Jayalalithaa's faction was represented by a crowing cock.Although both the factions had lost the 1989 state elections, Jayalalitha's AIADMK won 27 seats when compared to just 1 won by Janaki's. Following the election defeat, Janaki retired from active politics and the two party factions rejoined again.

Other breakaways in AIADMK were witnessed in 1990s, when R. M. Veerappan and S. Tirunavukkarasu due to personal differences with the party's chief Jayalalitha formed MGR Kazhagam (MGR's Organisation) and MGR ADMK (MGR's and Anna's DMK) respectively.

Parties which are not an offshoot of DK

Of the Dravidian parties Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) (Working Peoples party in English) is of recent origin and it relies on the voting strength of Vanniar caste. Dr. S. Ramadoss launched the party in July 1989, by converting the Vanniyar Sangam he founded in 1980, into a political organisation. The PMK's major planks include meaningful and effective affirmative action for people from the most backward classes (MBC) and other socially oppressed sections such as Dalits and the tribal people. The Vanniyar Sangam in the 1980s, and the PMK in the decade that followed organised numerous agitations, in which thousands of people courted arrest and braved police repression, to press the demand for greater social justice to the MBCs.

Another major Dravidian party which is not an offshoot of DK is Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) (National Forward Dravidian Organisation in English). It was launched by Tamil film star Vijayakanth, who had earlier converted his fan clubs into social service organisations, according to him as a "typical, Dravidian, for-the-Tamils".The party is now placing itself as an alternative to main-stream Dravidian parties.According to DMDK the Dravida Nadu is an integral part of Indian union and also looks upon Hindi as language of trade and commerce.

Dravidian parties in Central Government

Although the DMK and the AIADMK started playing minimal role in the decision-making process at the Central government from the beginning of the late 1960s, their actual participation in coalition governments came only in 1979, when two AIADMK Members of Parliament, Satyavani Muthu and Aravinda Bala Pajanor, joined the short-lived Charan Singh Ministry, which followed the Morarji Desai-led Janata Party government (1977-79). The DMK's Murasoli Maran joined the V.P. Singh Ministry in 1989. The DMK shared power with the subsequent United Front governments led by H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral. In the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ministry (1998-99), three parties from Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), were represented. In the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Ministry, headed by Vajpayee (1999-2004), the DMK, the MDMK and the PMK had their representatives. In fact, it was in this Ministry that Tamil Nadu had the largest representation. At one stage there were 10 Ministers from Tamil Nadu, seven of them from the Dravidian parties. In the Vajpayee Ministry (1998-99), the AIADMK's presence lasted only a few months. The current central government led by Manmohan Singh includes cabinet members from DMK.


Dravidianism and Tamilism

The principal ideals and goals of Dravidian parties at its incipience, which were borrowed from Dravidar Kazhagam, were social reforms, such as ending religious superstitions, ending caste distinction, empowerment of women, ending Brahmin dominance in Tamil Nadu educational institutions and government, ending northern domination of politics and economy of Tamil Nadu, opposition to Hindi as India's official language and independence for Dravida Nadu from India. It can be noted that the call for Dravida Nadu in the initial days during the British Raj meant a "Dravidian state under the British Raj".Although Annadurai defended his party's demand for Dravida Nadu in his maiden speech in the Rajya Sabha in 1962 and recorded his protest against a ban on demanding separation, a year later the demand had to be abandoned following the Sino-Indian War.. This shift in its paradigm is often attributed to the Sixteenth Amendment to the Indian Constitution or Anti-sectionist amendment, as it is usually called. The formation of a Tamil Nadu as a Tamil language state carved out of the erstwhile Madras Presidency, in the 1960s, fulfilled the goal of an encompassing Dravidian state.Since then, State autonomy and social justice through reservation for the underprivileged in education and employment have been the main political planks of the DMK.The Dravidian political ideology has evolved through years and now is varied between parties.With its initial atheistic inclination with a strict anti-Brahmin outlook of the DK, DMK moved on to the strong ethnic identity - initially that of "the Dravidian" and later of "the Tamilian" or "the common Tamil man".In fact it is considered that Dravidian politics developed into an inclusive Tamil nationalism since it associated the Dravidian community with the non-Sanskritic Tamil language and cultural tradition.With the rise of AIADMK in 1977, Tamil Nadu witnessed two Chief Ministers (MGR and Jayalalitha) who were not Tamils themselves.

Leftist inclination

The Self-respect movement, which is the root of the Dravidian politics, was initially forged in the mid-1920s in emulation and in critique of a Gandhian Congress Party, but by 1930s it was heavily influenced by Leninist socialism, atheism and Bertrand Russell's inspired rationalism.Former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the first to hold that post in the Dravidian parties, C. N. Annadurai had declared that DMK (and hence its offshoots) are "genuinely communist by principle".

Political use of media

Media has been used very commonly by Dravidian politicians right from its days of infancy. The initial propaganda for the Dravidian politics was solely based on newspapers owned by its benefactors or by the organisations, and, through public gatherings. One of the forerunners was the magazine Justice, which carried strong non-Brahmin view points, after which the Justice party was named. It later used Kudi Arasu (The Republic in English) . DMK had Murasoli (Drum beat in English) as its party organ, and AIADMK with Namathu Dr MGR (Our Dr. MGR in English). Dinakaran, a Tamil Daily owned by Marans, was earlier considered as an unofficial organ of DMK until the family feud within the family of Karunanidhi.

Tamil Cinema and Politics

Tamil cinema had become politicized during the Non-cooperation movement and with the advent of sound in the films, it attracted large numbers of theater personnel, many of whome were already active in politics.Annadurai was a writer, director and producer of many films that were used as a means of propagation of Dravidian ideologies.Others include Sivaji Ganesan, who was a member of DK but later moved to DMK as one of its founding members. Nevertheless, he was expelled from the DMK following his comments on the party as "glamour party", a reaction which is attributed to his frustration of lack of recognition.M. G. Ramachandran, was reputedly most famous of the stars of any Dravidian party.Current Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Karunanidhi continued to stay both in film script writing and politics even until recent times.Former Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu, V. N. Janaki Ramachandran and J. Jayalalitha were both film stars who paired with MGR in many of his movies. Other stars within the Dravidian parties include S. S. Rajendran and K. R. Ramaswamy. Vijayakanth, the founder of DMDK is also a successful movie star.


DMK had earlier used Sun TV network for its propaganda until the family feud within Karunanidhi's family, which eventually lead to the birth of alternate Tamil Channel for the party in the name of Kalaignar TV..Similarly, AIADMK earlier owned JJ TV which was later dissolved. It currently uses Jaya TV for its propaganda.Another Tamil television channel, Makkal TV is run by Dr Ramados, the party chief of PMKbut the PMK has clarified that it is not an organ of the party.

Electoral symbols of the Dravidian parties

Image:DMK Rising Sun.png|Electoral symbol of Dravida Munnetra KazhagamImage:AIADMK Two Leaves.png|Electoral symbol of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra KazhagamImage:PMK Mango.png|Electoral symbol of Pattali Makkal KatchiImage:MDMK Top.png|Electoral symbol of Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra KazhagamImage:DMDK Drum.PNG|Electoral symbol of Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam


Each of the Dravidian parties are represented with their own flags. Black and Red are the usual colours used, which traces its origin to Periyar's visit to Axis countries, especially Soviet Russia. On his arrival back home, he declared that his party members would wear black shirts whenever and wherever possible. The design of the DMK flag consists of two-colour rectangles, with the top half black and the bottom half red. Black color reflected the dark political, economical and social situation of Dravidians. Red color signified "rising sunlight" that removes the darkness. The red rises from the bottom and is expected to slowly remove all the darkness. Years later when DMK contested elections, it would take "rising sun" as the party symbol. AIADMK uses the black and red combination with picture of Annadurai in white in the middle and hence it is sometimes symbolised as a tricoloured flag as black and red flag with white running the middle, whereas MDMK flag consist of two red strips with black strip in the center.Image:DMK flag.PNG‎|Flag of DMKImage:AIADMK flag.PNG|Flag of AIADMKImage:PMK flag.PNG‎|Flag of PMKImage:MDMK flag.PNG‎|Flag of MDMKImage:DMDK flag.PNG‎|Flag of DMDK



One of the major impacts of the Dravidian parties is said to be the lack of or limited support to Hindutva, which swept the Hindi heartlands of India, in Tamil Nadu.The announcement in 1990 by the then Prime minister V.P. Singh that the Mandal Commission's recommendation to extend reservation in employment in the Union government to the Other Backward Classes, would be implemented was "in accordance with the resolution to that effect, passed in the State Assembly" is claimed by DMK as its achievement.Furthermore, listing the benefits accruing to the State from sharing power at the Centre, the DMK has stated that "the presence of the DMK Minister (Murasoli Maran) in the National Front Cabinet and the resolution passed in the (Tamil Nadu) Assembly during the DMK regime (1996-2001) resulted in a Tribunal being appointed to adjudicate the Kavery Water Dispute in the case filed by the Thanjavurmarker farmers in the Supreme Court". The success of the efforts of Prime Minister Vajpayee in persuading Karnatakamarker to accept the Tribunal's Interim Award ensuring 205 tmc.ft. of Kaveri river water to Tamil Nadu has been seen as one of the benefits of the DMK's presence in the BJP-led government.

According to the DMK, the "creation" of 11 Navaratnas and 97 Mini-Ratnas companies in the public sector, (blue-chip companies which invest 30 per cent of their surplus funds in public sector mutual funds) "with administrative and financial autonomy", during the United Front government at the Centre (1996-98) was because of the party's presence in the Cabinet.Another benefit cited by DMK is the substantial share the State has received in foreign investments since the start of the liberalisation process. According to a party statement, of the total investment of Rs.13,150,170 millions that has flowed into the country since liberalisation began, Tamil Nadu has received 1,511,870 millions, which is 11.5 per cent of the total investment in the country.It is often stated by the DMK and its sympathisers, that its chief Karunanidhi played a vital role in the then central government to declare Tamil as a classical language.


Since 1996, either DMK or AIADMK had been part of the central governments of India.The inclusion of DMK in the United Front government, led by I. K. Gujral, in 1997 came under crisiswith the interim report of Jain Commission, which was appointed to oversee the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, said that the then DMK government was responsible for abetting Rajiv Gandhi's murderers.In 2007 DMK chief Karunanidi sparked controversy with his remarks on Lord Rama, causing a political unrest. and an FIR filed against him.


The Dravidian parties have played a pivotol role in the ongoing Sri Lankan civil war. M. G. Ramachandran,then AIADMK chief, is said to have donated 110 million Indian Rupees to the LTTE.It was also reported that DMK regime between 1989 to 1991 had aligned with the LTTE by the Jain Commission report.Ramadoss, party chief of PMK, has recently called for the Central Government of India to interfere with the issue for an "early political solution in Sri Lankamarker." In 2007 DMK, AIADMK and MDMK expressed their concerns over the arrest of Tamil Malaysians following a protest.

See also


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