Tamilnadu (TN) is possibly one of the most complex states in terms of politics and policies. Here parties have been thriving on a dangerous concoction of ‘Dravidianism’ and casteism. This is a dangerous combination because Dravidian parties not just aim to keep the people away from nationalism but also divided among themselves by using the caste card. At present All India Anna Dravida Munetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Dravida Munetra Kazhagam (DMK) dominate the political scene.
Pre-Dravidian and Dravidian Era
Like the entire country, Congress dominated the politics of the state from Independence until the late 60s (1967 to be precise) when Dravidian parties started rising to prominence. It is not that they did not exist before the 60s but that they rose to prominence in this decade. Dravida Kazhagam (DK), earlier known as Justice Party, was non-political in nature. EV Ramaswami, known as Periyar and CN Annadurai, famously called Anna, were its popular leaders. Annadurai left DK to form DMK citing differences with Periyar. Unlike DK, DMK was a full-fledged political party.
The one event that single-handedly led to the decline of Congress and with it nationalism and rise of regionalism and Dravidianism is the anti-Hindi agitation. Anti-Hindi agitation dates back to 1937, when the then Madras Presidency government led by Rajaji (C Rajagopalachari) decided to make Hindi education compulsory in the presidency. Periyar opposed this move and agitations in the form of protest marches, fasts and other pickets among others. Immediately after independence the move to make Hindi the country’s official language was opposed by many non-Hindi states. The agitations gathered momentum in 1965 as 26th January was set to be the date when Hindi would be made the country’s official language. On 25th January a full scale riot broke out in Madurai and soon spread to the rest of the state leaving the state of Madras burning for the next two months with widespread events of violence and arson.
In the elections that followed in 1967, DMK came to power with a thumping majority. With this began the Dravidian era and end of Congress in the state. This election made the then DMK member and actor MG Ramachandran popular (MGR) who was shot at by his rival MR Radha. MGR would later on form AIADMK that rose as a challenger to DMK.
Casteism takes roots
Despite all the Dravidianism that leaders of DK and DMK spoke about, these leaders were also ‘outsiders’ because most of them were not Tamils but Telugu. This was used by natives to raise the issue of non-Tamils taking up the space of Tamilians and the state being ruled by outsiders. From this rose the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), Viduthalai Chiruthai Katchi (VCK) and Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK). While PMK, founded by ex-Union minister Anbumani Ramadoss’ father Ramadoss, is a Vanniar dominated party, VCK’s T. Thirumavalavan and his party prides itself on being anti-Hindu and Dalit one. Despite these parties claiming to be caste neutral; their actions belies their true intentions. NTK, lead by Seeman at present, was founded by SP Adithanar and is radically Tamil having supported LTTE leader Prabhakaran.
Tamil Cinema dominates the political space as well
Tamil politics has been dominated by cine-stars ever since Dravidianism has taken over the political space from Congress. Therefore, it is not surprising, that five of the seven chief ministers of Dravidian parties were from the Tamil film industry. While MGR and Jayalalitha were popular actors, M Karunanidhi was a scriptwriter. Many actors such as Shivaji Ganesan and SS Rajendran were also associated with DMK but had limited success. Recently, Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan have announced the launching of their own parties. Popular Congress leader K. Kamaraj questioned the possibility of movie stars forming governments. MGR, Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha proved Kamaraj’s doubts as unfounded and went on to rule the state several states. Whether or not filmstars make effective political leaders is a matter of debate. Admittedly, cinema stars have an emotional grip on the people but it is for the public to realise that there is a difference between what they see on-screen and what is possible off it.
Voting pattern in the state
If we closely analyse the voting pattern in the state we will find that glamour and of course money in return for one’s votes rules the roost. Other than this, people have been voting on caste lines. If people were not so much in awe of glamour, filmstars would not have been able to win elections; be it MGR or Vijaykanth. Allegations of people being paid huge sums of money during the recent RK Nagar by-elections is surely not a one-off incident. Earlier too money has been paid to buy votes. Bribing people to vote either by giving them money or goods in return for their votes has become a culture in Tamilnadu. When people choose to sell their votes instead of thinking of the long term, they are essentially digging a grave for themselves.
The road ahead
If the people of Tamilnadu need developement they need to rise above Dravidianism and casteism and move away from the glamour of cinemas. Whom they vote to power should be on the basis of whether the person would be able to deliver what he promises rather than just one’s glamour quotient. Life is surely not a movie and administration is a responsibility which is not everyone’s cup of tea. It is not one’s education but one’s intellect and administrative skills that makes one a successful leader and able administrator.