From the archives: When MGR sailed on sympathy in 1984 polls

The 1984 elections was held in the backdrop of assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Published: 28th April 2021 04:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th April 2021 04:12 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  The 1984 elections was held in the backdrop of assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The parliament and State Assembly members resigned as her son and heir apparent Rajiv Gandhi sought a fresh mandate. Soon after 1980 poll victory of AIADMK, Congress ditched its ally DMK and joined hands with the MGR’s party. They both contested as allies in 1984, and swept the polls. What helped the Congress was the sympathy for Indira Gandhi and MGR.

MGR’s party earned the unique distinction of winning Assembly polls for three consecutive times and that too when its CM candidate did not even campaign. The only campaign material for AIADMK were the visuals of MGR undergoing treatment and the funeral procession of Indira Gandhi. Also were the songs seeking MGR’s well-being. And it worked. AIADMK won 132 of the 155 seats it contested and its ally Congress won 61 of the 73. DMK was pushed to a distant third with just 24 MLAs.

The party had campaigned by placing corruption charges against the AIADMK and the massacre of Sikhs by Congressmen in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assasination. It was J Jayalalithaa who compensated for the absence of MGR by extensively campaigning for the party and this also marked a milestone in her political career. Also, for DMK leader M Karunanidhi, this period proved that despite the party losing three elections, there could not even be a word raised against his leadership.

In this tenure as the CM, MGR managed to achieve a major victory in the Sri Lankan Tamils issue. He was instrumental in signing of India-Sri Lanka accord between the then PM Rajiv Gandhi and Lankan president JR Jayewardene, aimed at resolving the Lankan civil war. For the DMK, the renewed attempt by the Congress to impose Hindi came handy to put MGR in check. The new education policy envisaged setting up of Navodaya schools where Hindi will be one of the languages taught. It was also said that the Centre was insisting that all communications with it from the States should be in Hindi.

While MGR was not very vocal in his opposition, Karunanidhi and his partymen staged massive protests. Citing the incident in which the DMK burnt copies of the section of the Constitution, 10 MLAs were disqualified by the Speaker. Karunanidhi was sentenced to 10 weeks in jail. In prison, he was given the white uniform for convicts in half trousers. His photo in the prison uniform leaked in newspapers and caused much outrage. 1986 was also an eventful year for it was in that year MGR abolished the Legislative Council. This was after his nominee, actress ‘Venniraadai’ Nirmala, could not become a member since she had declared insolvency.

DMK had subsequently tried to revive the Legislative Council and could not till date. It remains even now a poll promise of DMK. In the next year, 1987, the State was rocked by Vanniyar Sangam protests seeking exclusive reservations. Its members blocked the transport movement for about a week in northern districts and ended with police crack down, killing 13 people in firings. This was followed by talks with its representatives but no decision was taken on the issue as MGR met with a sudden death on December 24, 1987. This led to another period of turmoil.

VR Nedunchezhiyan immediately assumed as the CM. The next month, MGR’s wife Janaki Ramachandran was elected as the CM and she was sworn in. However, the party was split into two as J Jayalalithaa also laid claim to the leadership of the party. On January 28, 1988, amidst unprecedented events in the Assembly, Janaki Ramachandran won the vote of confidence with support of just 99 members. Supporters of Janaki and Jayalalithaa clashed in the Assembly and Speaker PH Pandian disqualified six supporters of Jayalalithaa.

In the afternoon session, when just 110 members were present in the house, she won the vote of confidence. However, in just two days, on January 30, the Centre dissolved the government and imposed President’s rule. Meanwhile, actor Sivaji Ganesan was upset with this move and quit Congress. He floated a new political party, Tamilaga Munnetra Munnani. After the State government was dissolved, the then PM Rajiv Gandhi frequently visited and toured across TN with the aim of reviving Congress. History showed he was not very successful in this.

Last MGR cabinet
Cabinet members of
MGR’s third regime
(1985-1987): VR
S Ramachandran,
KA Krishnaswamy,
RM Veerappan, C
K Kalimuthu, C
Ponnaiyan, HV Hande,
S Muthusamy, S
R Soundararajan,
MR Govendhan,
Gomathi Srinivasan,
Palanisamy, YSM Yusuf,
KKSSR Ramachandran,
K Rajaram, VV
T Veerasamy, N
Nallusamy, Anoor
PG Jagadeesan,
T Ramasamy, A

1984 POLLS 

Tota l seats :234

AIADMK won : 132
(37.03% vote share)
INC: 61 (16.28%)
DMK : 24 (29.34%)
CPI : 2 (2.62%)
CPM: 5 (2.76%)
Janata: 3 (2.28%)
Gandhi Kamaraj
Congress: 2 (0.56%)
Kranti Dal: 1 (0.22%)
Independents: 4


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