Understanding why Dravidian Parties are so powerful in Tamil Nadu

Call it destiny. Call it a no choice situation. Call it whatever. Yet, the fact of the matter is that the two parties, the DMK, and the AIADMK have ruled and will continue to rule Tamil Nadu for over another ten years, at least. This article is an attempt to identify and discuss what has made them click, on several parameters.


Those from most parts of India, particularly the North of India are completely aghast that the two Dravidian parties, the DMK, and the AIADMK are so powerful till this day. There is absolutely no way the Tamil Nadu politics can change for the better and the national parties can stake a claim to form a Government here. For a huge variety of reasons, some of which are explained in some detail.

In this article, an attempt is made to focus on a) Language as an identity for an entire race b) Huge importance given to English and to education c) Massive infrastructure development d) the emotional connect through Tamil literature e) Emergence of the concept of "Tamil spirit" in Tamil Nadu and f) Absence of a meaningful narrative from the Opposition.

Language as an identity for an entire race

Tamil Nadu is the only State in India, where a good knowledge of Tamil is fine enough to transact any business. Everything is done in Tamil. There have been consistent demands that the court language should also be in Tamil. The official language of the Government and the official records and correspondence is also in Ta6mil. In fact, it is only this massive identity and importance given to the local language that has motivated the other South Indian State of Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana to get things done in their own Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu languages.

This has stopped the Hindi fanatics on their tracks. Their designs will never work in Tamil Nadu. People may learn to speak in Hindi, but writing in Hindi will never happen even after two hundred years. This identification with Tamil has a very significant message: it is the language of survival. It is the symbol of an entire race. That Tamil is far more ancient than Hindi and is also a big classical language is never lost on any Tamilian. This is the single reason why people passionately hate Hindi imposition. They may hear songs and see "Sholay" for days on end. Amitabh Bachchan and M..S. Dhoni have managed to identify with the Tamil population, only because they never sought to never impose Hindi. As Captain of the superb IPL team called Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Dhoni is ever on the lips of every Tamilian during the IPL season.

Language is the identity of an entire race. It is the foundation of all success. Yes, the Tamil medium students do find it difficult to speak English. But there are still many IAS officers who have come out from this very same population. For every single Tamilian, English is the language of commerce. Not Hindi. The DMK and AIADMK have always been in the forefront of opposing Hindi imposition in any form.No one likes Hindi. It is one language that the average Tamilian loves to hate. The same person will learn the language only if it is necessary, for example, when he or she is posted outside Tamil the State.

The Dravidian parties, in particular, the DMK have successfully articulated the yearning for the supremacy of the Tamil language in every sphere of business activity in Tamil Nadu. The very big trading community, for example, does not know English. Yet, their contribution to the State's over 7 percent GDP growth is fabulous. The Dravidian parties have milked the Tamilian's hatred for Hindi. Even the IAS officers from the North of India, speak very good Tamil. The present Salem Collector, who hails from Maharashtra, speaks Tamil as if it were her own mother tongue!!

Huge importance given to English and to education

Hundreds of thousands of young people in the age group of 18-30 or even more can read, speak and write in English, which is a global language. Just go through some of the admission lists of the IIMs and other major B schools and you can see the difference. The importance given to English has been singularly responsible for the higher rate of employment in the IT companies and in the IT-enabled sectors.

Cut to elementary education. It was the late Kamaraj, who launched the mid-day meals scheme. The greatest Tamilian who lived on earth in Tamil Nadu, this tall leader of the Congress party gave massive importance to elementary education and then the higher level of education. In later years, Mr. Karunanidhi only expanded the scope of this scheme by introducing eggs. This helped to expand the reach of education to every corner of Tamil Nadu. Government schools are doing superb work. The final examinations are always held on time. The importance is given to higher education in the post DMK period by MGR, the hero turned politician, was even more impressive.

It was MGR who identified the scope for private sector participation in education. Particularly, engineering education. Hundreds of colleges opened up. Today, it is possible for the most backward classes to just have a 45% mark in average in core subjects and just walk into any engineering college, with a fairly good background. For example, even from the C grade colleges, the engineers fight it hard on the shop floor and in the IT companies and then work their way up to the highest levels. The best of them get to work in multinational companies. It was the encouragement that helped the formation of two world-class Deemed to be Universities in VIT University and the SRM University, in Vellore and in Chennai respectively. Today, these Universities have campuses elsewhere too. The 69% reservation, in Tamil Nadu, has meant that all castes and communities have become educated.

The Dravidian parties might be corrupt. But to an average Tamilian, the corruption of the BJP in so many States and the bitter record of the Congress party are benchmarks for corruption. For example, every Tamilian knows that Mr. Yeddurappa of the BJP was very corrupted. Juicy stories of his corruption were published in all Tamil newspapers. So, the counter question would be, "who is not corrupt?".

Massive infrastructure development

The spirit of endurance of the average Tamilian is still not yet understood by most economists. Or the armchair experts. For instance, this State has the largest and best-organized bus transport in India. It also includes huge private sector involvement. The very large network of roads in the State has been made possible only due to the importance given to roads development by both the DMK and the AIADMK. When there were complaints that the village roads were in shambles, the then Chief Minister, Mr. M. Karunanidhi, ensured that the village roads were replaced by concrete roads, capable of withstanding any rain. The average Tamilian is somewhat satisfied when his basic needs are met. The wants are never chased by millions. For example, air-conditioners. Go to the villages. People would like to sleep in natural surroundings throughout the summer. No one likes air-conditioners.

The mobility of people to do trading in the surrounding areas has to be seen to be believed. Hundreds of thousands of small traders earn upwards of Rs.350 per day, through such small trading. They are a contented lot, as they have their own houses. Most often, the children are educated and work in Chennai, in the IT companies or manufacturing companies. The game is on. The service sector contributes to almost 50 percent of the GDP. The contribution of the bus network to this development has to be studied in depth to understand ground realities. This will continue. Tamil Nadu is now safe on power and the solar energy availability is also increasing day after day. The Public Distribution System is now computerized and corruption is down.

Huge bridges and roads connect parts of Chennai city. All these were done during the DMK period. The fantastic bus service in Chennai is second to the BEST of Mumbai and this has been recorded. The city buses now ply to even Kanchipuram, a neat 80 kilometers away. That Kanchipuram is now sought to be made part of Chennai, is another story. Tamil Nadu is the only State where one can hop and jump and reach any part of the State. To reach Madurai, for example, on a sudden trip, one has to just board the night Government buses that ply to Tiruchirapalli. From this city, a bus to Madurai is found every thirty minutes, even after midnight. During the day, it is one for every ten minutes!! There are private buses too on such routes and generally not exceeding a distance of 120 kilometers.

Both the DMK and the AIADMK have always given importance to infrastructure. A Government hospital is never far away. For there is a district, for every forty or fifty kilometers!!. Yes, there is corruption. Yes, the treatment is nowhere near the private sector. But it is far better than what one finds in so many other States. It was the DMK that made Chennai a big hub of IT and related developments. It has now one of the largest BPO companies in India. The new craze is for studying the paramedical courses. There is massive employment potential here. In the years to come, the IIT crowd will drive the startup space and the emergence of the new IIM at Tiruchirapalli has aided the availability of good managerial talent.

Yes, it is true that the present AIADMK Government is the most corrupted in India. Yet, whatever bases have already been set, and are firmly in place, continue to enable the State to grow at over 7 or 8 percent GDP year on year. The corruption was attributed to one horrible family, nicknamed Mannargudi Mafia, headed by one ruthless Sasikala, now cooling her heels in a Bangalore prison for corruption. The ability of the average Tamilian to brave any natural calamity was seen in the 2015 Chennai floods. The entire State stood up as one man. Generous help from other parts of India was gratefully acknowledged too.

The Government college in engineering, medicine, arts and science and even in Education (B.Ed) are doing a very good job. The State Government Universities are still subsidized. The rather pathetic debt levels of around 4.5 lakh crore rupees is a big worry, caused to mismanagement by the late Jayalalitha. Yet, there is hope that it can be managed. Even today, foreign direct investment is coming in.

The emotional connect through Tamil literature

The late Chief Minister, Mr. M. Karunanidhi was a Tamil scholar par excellence. His ability to talk example on a huge number of subjects, through a combination of literary Tamil with the common Tamil found in usage in a particular region, was just too good. This captivated his DMK to new heights. It still has a 30% vote share and came close to capturing power in the last Tamil Nadu Assembly elections. His had a bigger Vision for Tamil Nadu. This leader was solely responsible for the growth of Oragadam and Sriperambadur industrial belts, giving direct and indirect employment to over five lakh persons. The economic story of Tamil Nadu can never be written without reference to this leader.

In fact, he was able to build bridges with hundreds of industrialists, only through his command of the Tamil language. He is still respected as a leader who saw the future of the State and systematically built infrastructure towards creating a State where high literacy will be a key differentiating factor. Though there are other Tamil scholars, Kalaignar, as he is affectionately called, will always be remembered for his contribution to the growth of Tamil in a big way. His successor Jayalalitha was a stern administrator but had her flip side too. She was zero in Tamil literature and was never able to connect with the masses through Tamil. She was very corrupt and her ministers continue to swindle crores of rupees even today. This is Tamil Nadu ' s major worry and shame, as of now.

Nevertheless, the strong foundations of Tamil, laid by so many leaders and Mr. Karunanidhi in particular, will continue to literally dominate the Tamilian mindset for a very long time

Emergence of the concept of "Tamil spirit" in Tamil Nadu

Around 26 months ago, the famous Marina Beach, in Chennai, and the second largest beach in the world, save a mass mobilization of almost ten hundred thousand people, who stayed put in the same place for 72 hours. Not a single incident against any woman was reported. It created an International sensation. The reason was the Supreme Court Ban on Jallikattu, a game of taming the wild bull, that is very famous in most parts of South Tamil Nadu. Every single person who gathered there wanted the Supreme Court to review its order. The State was firm and the then Chief Minister, Mr. Panneerselvam was instrumental in the issue of a fresh ordinance from New Delhi. That was it. Jallikattu is on, for the past two years.

Jallikattu was symbolic of something else. Mr. Modi is still seen as the worst ever Prime Minister, who is out there to crush, what is called as " Tamil identity". Or " Tamil spirit". Jallikattu is widely identified with Tamil culture. The youth risk their lives while participating in it. There has never been such a mass uprising before. It was joined by the Rajasthanis and Gujaratis, who have lived for centuries in Tamil Nadu. Resentment against Central Government projects, having adverse effects on agriculture, is very high. The most urbanized State of India does not mean that no one is interested in agriculture. Those who depend on agriculture is still very large.

The Tamil identity concept emerged after the Jallikattu agitation and both the DMK and AIADMK are very much on the same page, fighting tooth and nail against the NEET examination, effectively doing away with the admissions to the medical colleges of a huge number of rural students with a very good percentage of marks in core subjects. This cuts across many communities. Their anger is against Modi and his policies. It should be noted that both DMK and the AIADMK have successfully identified themselves with the concept of "Tamil identity".

Absence of a meaningful narrative from the Opposition

Even within Tamil Nadu, parties like the highly opportunistic PMK and DMDK of Vijayakanth, are not even close to 10% in terms of effectiveness of the DMK and AIADMK in terms of enveloping the collective consciousness of the eight crores Tamil population. The PMK founder, Dr. Ramdoss, is a very corrupt politician who commands very little respect now. And Vijayakanth is very unwell.

Kamalhassan the fabulous actor with his new party has a good name. But he is too young in politics. He is yet to articulate what exactly he wants or how he is going to get things done. The BJP has a group of jokers who keep the Tamilians in good humor. It's a local hero, one H.Raja, is enough to enable the BJP to not even exceed the NOTA votes. Everywhere. This is the main reason for the masses always believing the DMK and AIADMK. This situation will continue.


Politics in India is like a stage drama. In Tamil Nadu, such stage dramas are part of life. However, the DMK and AIADMK have too much attention to that stage at this point in time. The DMK and AIADMK will continue to survive and grow. For at least another two decades.


Author: Umesh14 Mar 2019 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 3

Any local party which can meet the aspirations of the local people will always be the winner and that is the way these people have exercised their work and made their presence felt by the Tamil people.

It requires a lot of grass root level work and continuous hard work to keep the local people happy. The local voters are very powerful and if you do not take their care they can switch their loyalty to the national parties and then these local leaders lose the control and fruits of the powerful political positions.

What Tamil Nadu has showcased and put up a benchmark in front of the whole of the nation is a herculean task to achieve. Though many leaders are trying that in other states also but it is not so easy and straight.

Author: ABSivakumar14 Mar 2019 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 4

Exactly Sir. The connect that the DMK has with the local problems and the way it is often got done, is simply amazing. The DMK Government would first introduce a bus to a remote area. That area will naturally develop when the traffic increases. And when the new colonies spring up, that area will become a huge urban conglomeration.

Take the Mahindra World City. The distance between this FIRST economic zone in the country and Broadway, the starting point of Chennai city center is over 60 kilometers. Hence, when the city goes on expanding new schools, colleges, shopping centers, hospitals and a whole range of new services emerge. In the Tambaram area of Chennai, there are some thirty odd caterers who serve hot food to thousands of bachelors and old people too. This keeps the employment increasing by leaps and bounds. The traders are also very happy. No Government can do this. The DMK did it. At least seven lakh people are directly or indirectly involved in the IT and IT related industry. The credit for this should go only to Dr. Kalaignar.

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