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The Rediff Special / A Ganesh Nadar
May 04, 2004
All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
What's behind the origin of the AIADMK?
Marudur Gopala Ramachandran Menon, one of the two most popular Tamil film stars, was the chief vote catcher for the DMK in Tamil Nadu. But saying he was unhappy with his long-time rival, then chief minister and DMK president M Karunanidhi's alleged corruption, Ramachandran, popularly known as MGR, petitioned the state governor, listing 56 acts of commission and omission of the DMK government. A government panel later upheld the charges of corruption.
Not surprisingly, MGR was sacked from the party.
MGR formed the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (the words, All-India were added a few years later) in 1972. 'Anna' stands for C N Annadurai, the founder of the DMK and MGR's political mentor, who was also chief minister from 1967 to 1969, when he died.
How did the party develop?
Fast and easy! MGR had fan clubs all over the state, with offices and listed members. He simply converted the fan clubs into party offices, and his fans into party members. Many DMK leaders joined him too. Just five years after its formation, the AIADMK won the 1977 assembly election and MGR became chief minister.
He sure was popular, wasn't he?
Absolutely, and he proved that his victory was no flash in the pan. In 1980, Indira Gandhi dismissed the ADMK government and ordered fresh elections. The ADMK swept back to power, and did so again in 1984.
When did the problems start?
In 1987, MGR died. His wife Janaki was sworn in as chief minister, but the lady, who had never held any political office, did not last long in office. The AIADMK government fell.
Worse, another faction, led by J Jayalalithaa (then spelt Jayalalitha), came about. Jayalalithaa was MGR's leading heroine in many films and an active party member, who had held key positions in the party.
Both AIADMK factions contested the 1989 assembly election, and the split allowed the DMK to return to power (after 12 long years).
How did the AIADMK bounce back?
After her faction's disastrous performance in 1989, Janaki Ramachandran retired from public life, and died a few years later. Jayalalithaa became the undisputed leader of the AIADMK, which soon reconsolidated.
The return to power came about after Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by the LTTE in May 1991. The DMK, seen as sympathetic to the LTTE, was ousted and the AIADMK returned to power, with Jayalalithaa becoming chief minister.
What was her government like?
Many said it was the worst government in Tamil Nadu since Independence. Corruption charges against her flew fast and thick. The crowning glory of her rule was when she spent an estimated Rs 1 billion or Rs 100 crores for the wedding of her best friend Sasikala's nephew.
Did she lose the next election?
She sure did. The DMK went to town with stories of corruption and video clippings of the Rs 100-crore marriage. The AIADMK was nearly wiped out in 1991: it won only four seats out of 234 in the Tamil Nadu assembly.
What happened next?
The DMK went on a witch-hunt and hounded Jayalalithaa and her best friend Sasikala, both of whom were jailed, while 46 cases of corruption were filed against Jayalalithaa. It is another story that in five years that the DMK held power, it failed to prosecute her in even one case.
It would also appear that hounding Jayalalithaa did not go down too well with the public. In the 2001 assembly election, they voted her back to office, and she is the present chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
So she is now with the Congress? And what about those cases?
Politicians make for strange bedfellows. After coming back to power, Jayalalithaa moved away from the Congress. For the 2004 general election, she is supporting the BJP-led alliance in Tamil Nadu, while the DMK has moved from the BJP to the Congress.
Regarding the cases, not a single court has convicted her.
Image: Rahil Shaikh