Congress allowed Dravidian parties’ domination in state

The year 1971 was the harsh reality that dug the grave for national parties’ domination in Tamil Nadu politics
Congress allowed Dravidian parties’ domination in state


Still, 1967 is considered the watershed year in Indian politics marking the rise of regional parties with Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) capturing power in Tamil Nadu. And 1971 marks the real beginning of the downslide of national parties like Congress. 
This was made possible through multiple factors and the two most significant of them are, the political astuteness of DMK chief M Karunanidhi and the vertical split in the Congress nationwide. 
The year 1969 saw Congress party vertically split nationwide with Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister, refusing to tow the line of old timers led by Morarji Desai and our own venerable Kamaraj. 
Except for Kamaraj, all other old timers were right wing conservatives. Indira Gandhi called for early elections in 1971 one year before the end of her term to get rid of the excess old baggage. An astute Karunanidhi saw a great opportunity in this situation. 
He rightly assessed that in Tamil Nadu, Congress had no other tall leader except Kamaraj and if he were to be weakened, Congress itself could be weakened. He used this opportunity to weaken the rival party. 
Indira Gandhi was keen to capture power again at the Centre. She desperately needed a powerful ally in Tamil Nadu to counter Kamaraj’s Congress. Karunanidhi dissolved the state assembly one year before the expiry of the term and called for state elections alongside the Lok Sabha polls. 
He struck a deal with Indira Gandhi, offering their alliance nine seats for the Lok Sabha and none for assembly elections! A desperate Indira Gandhi did not realise that this would virtually wipe out her party’s local presence. She took the deal and the rest is history. 
Whatever remains of Congress today is largely the other faction that remained with Kamaraj. The next opportunity to weaken the DMK came to Congress and Kamaraj in the form of MG Ramachandran. He split the Dravidian movement vertically for the first time. 
Kamaraj who still attracted a sizeable number of young voters refused to align with MGR and lost his entire constituency to MGR’s charisma. It would have been a different history if Kamaraj had chosen to align with MGR.  
With the disappearances of strong leaders like Kamaraj, the party lacks a leadership that can meet regional aspirations. The party’s major failure in handling a highly emotive issue like the Eelam Tamils’ cause has severely dented its Tamil identity. 
The other national party BJP is in a worse situation. The party’s ideological positions are totally alien to local culture and ethos and hence it is not in a position to substitute Congress in the state. The minor national parties such as the Left have always lacked popular communication skills to woo the voters in comparison to Dravidian parties.
New parties like DMDK and PMK have emerged more as clones of the Dravidian parties. Thus the Tamil electorate is destined to be ruled by the Dravidian parties for the present with both DMK and AIADMK being safeguarded by the huge plank of the long cultivated images of their present leaders M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa. No national party now has the potential to counter the power of these two icons.
Gnanisankaran is a Tamil  writer, journalist and filmmaker. He can be con tacted at  gnanisankaran@

Related Stories

No stories found.