ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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An Analysis of the Poll Scene in Tamil Nadu

The 2014 elections in Tamil Nadu are a point of no return for the Congress much like the 1967 general elections. But the consolidation of the Other Backward Classes that led to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's emergence is now over and fragmentation in the sociopolitical sense has thrown the field wide open to a radical realignment of forces.

This article was published earlier in the Web Exclusives section of the EPW website.

Among the 10 states 1 where the Congress lost power in 1967, the party could never regain it, even once, after that in Tamil Nadu. One may see this as due to the caste-wise make-up of the population in Tamil Nadu as well as the long-term dynamics of this in the making of the political history of the state. Unlike in those parts of the country with a fairly large percentage of the upper castes in the population, their proportion to the population is low in Tamil Nadu. It may be noted that unlike in the Gangetic valley, the category of non-brahmin upper castes (such as the Bhumihars and the Rajputs), constituting the landed aristocracy, is almost absent in Tamil Nadu. This distinct feature lent a certain dynamic to the sociopolitical discourse in the state.

Seen against this basic feature, the consolidation of pro-British forces in the early decades of the 20th century (in the context of the Minto-Morley Reforms of 1909 and the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919), as opposed to the Indian National Congress (INC) and the idea of freedom, then served as a nucleus for the making of the anti-Congress platform historically. This was not the case with most other parts of the country where the feudatories, after flirting with the colonial rulers in the context of the constitutional reforms, hastened to join the INC and even managed to capture its organisation in many levels before 1947. The launch of the self-respect movement by Periyar E V Ramasamy Naicker, after he raised the issue of untouchability being practised in the Congress-run schools and walked out of the INC (in 1924), also gathered the feudatories around the platform as early as at the time of the elections to the Madras Provincial Assembly under the Government of India Act, 1935.

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