Prior to Indian independence Tamil Nadu was under British colonial rule as part of the Madras Presidency. The main party in Tamil Nadu at that time was the Congress Party. Regional parties have dominated state politics since 1916. One of the earliest regional parties, the South Indian Welfare Association, a forerunner toDravidian parties in Tamil Nadu, was started in 1916. The party was called after its English organ, Justice Party, by it opponents. Later, South Indian Liberal Federation was adopted as its official name. The reason for victory of the Justice Party in elections was the non-participation of the Congress Party, demanding complete independence of India. Freedom movement saw great leaders like K. Kamaraj, Subramanya Bharathi (a poet who inspired the freedom movement by his poetic skills), Subramania Siva, V O Chidhamdaranar (Industrialist, who managed ships under the free India banner), Thirupur Kumaran, Rajagopalachariar (Rajaji), L. Sriramulu Naidu (first Mayor of Madras), and Sathyamurthi.
|Source: Indian Elections / Election Commission of India.|
Periyar E. V. Ramasamy popularly known as Periyar, believed in agitational politics and took the Justice Party away from its original path. The Justice Party which had a moribund existence under E.V.Ramaswamy. He renamed the party Dravidar Kazhagam (DK for short) in 1944. DK was a non-political party which demanded the establishment of an independent state called Dravida Nadu. However, due to the differences between its two leaders EVR and C.N. Annadurai, the party was split. Annadurai left the party to form the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). The DMK decided to enter politics in 1956.
In the 19th century, western scholars discovered that the Dravidian languages dominating South India formed a different linguistic group than the Indo-Aryan languagespredominant in North India. They also classified Indians into distinct Aryan and Dravidian races. It was proposed that the generally darker-skinned Dravidians constituted a distinct race. This concept has affected thinking in India about racial and regional differences and had an impact on aspects of Tamil nationalism, which has appropriated the claim that Dravidians are the earliest inhabitants of India, and the Aryan population were oppressive interlopers from whom Dravidians should liberate themselves.
Re-organisation of Indian states according to linguistic and ethnic basis has moderated Tamil nationalism, especially the demand for separation from the Indian Union. TheAnti-Hindi agitations in mid-1960s made the DMK more popular and a more powerful political force in the state. The DMK routed the Congress Party in the 1967 elections and took control of the state government, ending Congress' stronghold in Tamil Nadu. C.N. Annadurai became the DMK's first Chief Minister.
Muthuvel Karunanidhi took over as Chief Minister and party leader after Annadurai's death in 1969. Karunanidhi's leadership was soon challenged by M.G. Ramachandran, popularly known as MGR. In 1972, he split from DMK and formed the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK) and later renamed the party as All India Anna Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam. He was the Chief Minister of the state from 1977 until his death in 1987. After the death of MGR AIADMK was defeated in 1989 assembly polls because of the Split of the party into two factions headed by Janaki (Wife of MGR) and Jayalalithaa. Later on J. Jayalalithaa took control of the party. She was elected as the General Secretary of the unified AIADMK. There have been several splits in both the DMK and the AIADMK, but since 1967 one of those two parties has held power in the state. The rise of Congress Party, Vijayakanth's DMDK, Vaiko's Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Dr. Ramdoss's PMK in the recent years has ensured that no single party is in majority to run a government and thereby giving rise to coalition politics.