Chronicles of DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) – A Historical Exploration (Part 2)


In the last article, we saw how Dravidar Kazhagam (DK)and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) helped in shaping the social and political fabric in Tamil Nadu in the post-independence era. In this part, we are going to dwell on the history of the DMK party from 1967 to contemporary times and discuss the evolution of the party’s ideology.

C. N. Annadurai Era (1949–1969):

When Annadurai became the Chief Minister in 1967 after his party, DMK emerged victorious in the elections, making history. DMK formed the government in the Madras State, which marked the first win for any regional party in India.

In 1967, the Congress lost nine states to opposition parties, but it was only in Madras that a single non-Congress Party i.e. the DMK won a majority.

The year 1967 also marked a year of strategic collaboration among non-Congress parties, aimed at preventing a division of Opposition votes. 

During that time, C. Rajagopalachari the prominent leader of Congress, founded the right-wing Swatantra Party. He played a crucial role in bringing together opposition parties to unite against the Congress. 

DMK’s win in the 1967 Legislative Assembly Elections, did not stem solely from a prevailing belief in a Tamil identity but rather the victory rode on the back of four major negative developments also, Congress witnessing a decline after C. Rajagopalachari establishing the Swatantra Party and forging an alliance with the DMK. Simultaneously, anti-Hindi protests reached its peak and the Central government refused to back down, scarcity of food was at alarming levels and inflation was on the rise. The DMK then announced a ‘Mummunai Porattam’ (three-pronged agitation), and almost all opposition political parties joined it in this agitation.

It is important to note that, this was also the year that ousted the Congress, and since then, the party has been unable to regain a significant foothold in Tamil Nadu.

During his tenure, Annadurai legalized self-respect marriages for the first time in the country. Self-respect marriages were a brainchild of Periyar and such marriages did not involve priests presiding over the ceremonies, and thus a Brahmin was not needed to carry out the wedding. 

During his tenure, the Madras state was renamed to present-day Tamil Nadu. One of Annadurai’s significant accomplishments in governance was the implementation of a two-language policy, a departure from the prevailing three-language formula at that time in the neighboring states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Karnataka, where three languages were to be studied including, regional language, English and Hindi.

Karunanidhi’s leadership (1969–2018):

In 1969, Annadurai passed away, leading to M. Karunanidhi assuming leadership of the DMK, and becoming the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu from 1969-1971. He was popularly referred to as Kalaignar (Artist) and Mutthamizh Arignar (Tamil Scholar) for his contributions to Tamil literature.

By 1972, discord between Karunanidhi and M. G. Ramachandran the charismatic actor and campaigner, resulted in a split within the party. 

Subsequently, MGR founded the AIADMK, basing the organization on the support of his fan associations.

In 1977, DMK lost the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections to M.G.R.’s AIADMK and stayed out of power in the state till 1989. After the DMK’s defeat in the 1977 Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly election, Karunanidhi won in the Anna Nagar constituency, securing his position as the leader of the opposition from 1977 to 1983.

In the aftermath of the 1983 anti-Tamil riots in Sri Lanka, Karunanidhi eventually resigned from the State Assembly, as a protest against the failure of both the Union government and the state, to protect the Eelam Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Later DMK returned to power in the 1989 State Assembly elections and for the 3rd time Karunanidhi took over as the Chief Minister in 1989, before that he held the same post for the 2nd time from 1971–1976.

After that, he formed an alliance with the Tamil Maanila Congress, led by G.K. Moopanar, and was elected Chief Minister for the 4th time in the state from 1996 to 2001.

Again, he was elected as a Chief Minister for the 5th time from 2006 to 2011, with the alliance of CPI-M, Congress, and CPI.

In 1994, the DMK had a division, leading to the formation of the Marumalarchi (Revival) DMK by V Gopalasamy, popularly known as Vaiko. 

Numerous district secretaries from the DMK joined his faction. It is alleged that Vaiko was ousted from the DMK to facilitate a seamless succession for Karunanidhi’s son, Stalin.

Karunanidhi was a giant of Indian politics spanning a six-decade career and had the longest tenure as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

Also Read: Chronicles of DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) – A Historical Exploration

M. K. Stalin’s leadership (2018–present):

Karunanidhi chose his younger son M K Stalin, as his successor despite facing opposition from Stalin’s elder brother M K Azhagiri.

After, Karunanidhi’s death on 7 August 2018, Stalin took on the reigns of DMK, though earlier only in 2017 he was appointed as the working president when Karunanidhi’s health started declining. He became the second DMK president since the party’s inception.

The DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance won the 2021 Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly election, electing M.K Stalin as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Secular Progressive Alliance consists of DMK, INC, VCK, MDMK, CPI, CPI(M), IUML, MMK, KMDK, TVK, AIFB, and others.

Evolution in DMK’s Ideology and Motivation:

So, a party that started with the goal of social justice, with its ideological roots in the concept of Aryan-Dravidian race theory, eventually demanded a separate state of Dravida Nadu and led vigorous agitations against the Hindi imposition, voicing their concerns for the Sri Lankan Tamils, eventually has evolved itself within the frameworks of Indian Constitution to achieve the goal of bolstering the Dravidian cultural cooperation in the four linguistic states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Karnataka under the unity of Indian sovereignty as formulated by Arignar Anna. 

At present the party aims to build and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of India while upholding the values of Equality, Secularism, and Democracy.

In the further articles we will see about alliances and power history of the party which derives its strength from the ideological core of ‘Periyarism’ but at the same time believes in pragmatic politics to get a share in the power structures, this will help us in holistically understanding DMK’s history.

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