Timeline: The Rise Of DMK In Tamil Nadu

Although DMK has tasted mixed electoral outcomes, it continues to remain a significant political force in Tamil Nadu.

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Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party president M.K. Stalin (R) speaks during an election campaign rally ahead of the Tamil Nadu state legislative assembly elections, in Chennai on April 4, 2021 Photo: Getty Images

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party, which is currently ruling in Tamil Nadu, has its roots in the Self-Respect Movement begun by EV Ramaswamy ‘Periyar’ during the first half of the 20th century. Over the years, the party became a leading face in the anti-Hindi movements across the state. Although the party has tasted mixed electoral outcomes, it continues to remain a significant political force in Tamil Nadu

Outlook maps the journey of DMK from its inception, tracing the key milestones and developments of the party.

1949: The DMK was founded by C.N. Annadurai (popularly known as Anna) and Periyar E. V. Ramasamy, as a breakaway faction from the Dravidar Kazhagam (DK), with an aim to promote Dravidian ideologies, social justice, and Tamil nationalism.

1957: The party contested its first-ever election in the Madras Presidency Legislative Assembly, after the linguistic reorganisation of Madras state in 1954,  and won 15 seats. However, the Indian National Congress and its leader K. Kamaraj won the election.

1967: DMK won a landslide victory in the state legislative elections, marking the end of Congress dominance in Tamil Nadu. C.N. Annadurai became the first non-Congress Chief Minister of the state post-independence. 

1969: Annadurai served as the CM only for 20 days before his death. M. Karunanidhi, who was considered a close associate of Annadurai, then assumed leadership of the DMK and became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

1972: M. G. Ramachandran (MGR), a popular actor and the then treasurer of DMK, was expelled from the party by Karunanidhi after 26 out of 32 members of the DMK’s Executive Council signed a memorandum demanding disciplinary action against him for his “vehement criticism of the party leadership”. This led to the formation of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). Both the parties went on to become bitter political rivals.

1977: DMK faced defeat in the state elections at the hands of AIADMK, led by MGR. The latter remained undefeated until his death in 1987.

1989: DMK formed a coalition government with the Indian National Congress and won the state elections. M. Karunanidhi became the Chief Minister for the third time.

1996: DMK again won the state elections but this time in alliance with the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC). M. Karunanidhi became Chief Minister for the fourth time. 

2001: AIADMK led by Jayalalithaa registered a landslide win in assembly elections. She was sworn in Chief Minister though was later disqualified to contest elections.

Under her tenure, Karunanidhi was arrested along with the minister of commerce and industry Murasoli Maran and the minister of environment and forests T. R. Baalu, in an alleged Rs 12 crore ‘flyover scam’. This event, which was well-documented by TV channels, marked the first incident in the history of independent India in which ministers were arrested in such a dramatic fashion.

2006: The DMK-led alliance won the state elections, and M. Karunanidhi became Chief Minister for the fifth time. The aforementioned case was dropped by the police in 2007.

2011: DMK faced defeat in the state elections, and the AIADMK led by Jayalalithaa came to power again.

2018: On August 7, the five-time Chief Minister Karunanidhi died aged 94 in Chennai after a prolonged illness. 

2019: In the 2019 Indian general elections, the DMK-led alliance won 37 out of 39 parliamentary seats in Tamil Nadu.

2021: DMK won the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly elections and formed the government under the leadership of M.K. Stalin, the son of M. Karunanidhi. The government had then passed a resolution in the state assembly demanding withdrawal of the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

2024: DMK leader Udhayanidhi Stalin on September 2, 2023, equated Sanatan Dharma to “mosquitoes, dengue, malaria and corona”, which greatly provoked BJP leaders and sparked a political controversy.