A few years ago, it appeared that the Dravida Munetra Kazhagam had outlived its utility. The issues that propelled its growth in the 1950s and 1960s like anti-North, anti-Aryan, anti-Hindi campaign and a call for state autonomy seemed to have run out of steam from the 1990s as the party became part of the very set-up it abhorred — Government of India.
The DMK, it seemed, could no longer afford to flog a dead horse as its prime movers — reservation for Other Backward Classes, right to property for women, rights to appointment as temples archakas for members of all communities, promotion of inter-caste marriages — had all been implemented and the benefits enjoyed by the people. With the issues of the past no longer relevant as far as the masses were concerned, the DMK stagnated. The party also seemed to have run out of ideas to ensure mass acceptance, while the AIADMK managed to capture the imagination of the people.
Who is CN Annadurai
He was one of the co-founders of the DMK and was popularly known as Perarignar Anna. He was a driving force in Tamil Nadu politics and was responsible for knocking out the Congress in 1967. Annadurai broke away from the Dravida Kazagam (DK), a party floated by Periyar EV Ramsamy Naicker as a social reformist outfit. One of the reasons for Annadurai to part ways with his mentor was because of the latter’s demand for a separate state of Tamil Nadu outside the Indian Union.
Since 2017, however, it is the man that the DMK opposes the most — Narendra Modi — who has, ironically, given the regional party a new lease of life as it turns 71, making it relevant all over again. The excessive use of Hindi at national gatherings to the exclusion of English, the crude attempts to impose Hindi through normal correspondence or communication of Union government policies, the thrust given to National Education Policy (NEP) without adequate consultation with the states, the CAA issue, the urgency shown in pushing through National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) exams despite the coronavirus situation combined with the spate of suicides among students — have all given an impetus to the DMK to position itself as the saviour of the Tamil cause once again.
The DMK was able to successfully whip up public sentiment against the Centre-sponsored projects whether relating to methane/GAIL project or NEET, and also build a strong front against the BJP and its ally, the AIADMK, resulting in a near-complete sweep of Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu.
In the past one year, the Centre’s relentless pursuit of its agenda like One Nation One Tax, One Nation One Card, the insistence on the three-language formula and the refusal to compensate states with regard to GST have helped the DMK project the tussle as a struggle between authoritarianism and egalitarianism. The excessive use of centralisation, using the coronavirus situation, has come in for sharp criticism in states like Tamil Nadu. The use of T-shirts to promote the Tamil identity as against Hindi imposition have gone viral on social media, indicating the dent in the image of the national party at the Centre. On the economic front, the thrust given by the Centre for greater privatisation of railways and aviation sectors in Tamil Nadu among other states has provided fodder to the opposition campaign in the state that the NDA is pursuing