From the archives: When DMK stormed to power in TN after 13 years

The year 1989 saw DMK come back to power after a hiatus of 13 years, and the regime witnessed several significant events unfold in the Assembly.

Published: 29th April 2021 04:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th April 2021 04:34 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The year 1989 saw DMK come back to power after a hiatus of 13 years, and the regime witnessed several significant events unfold in the Assembly. A split in AIADMK — two factions, one headed by late Chief Minister MG Ramachandran’s wife Janaki Ramachandran and another by J Jayalalithaa had helped DMK.

With around 33 per cent vote share, DMK had won 151 seats with a comfortable majority. Jayalalithaa’s faction of AIADMK secured 21.20 per cent vote share and 27 seats. Congress, which was hoping for a revival and contested alone, came third with 26 MLAs. Janaki’s faction got just 9.14 per cent vote share. Soon after this crushing defeat, Janaki declared retirement from politics, and Jayalalithaa took the reins of the party. She also became the first woman Opposition Leader in the State.

A drama unfolded when Jayalalithaa too had, for some personal reasons, decided to quit politics and even sent her resignation letter to Assembly Speaker and a press statement. It was M Natarajan, husband of Jayalalithaa’s close aide VK Sasikala, who got wind of the development and caught hold of the letters. Subsequently, a police team searched Natarajan’s house and leaked the letter to the press. Infuriated over this, Jayalalithaa charged the then Chief Minister Karunanidhi with leaking her letter to the press. AIADMK insiders say that, out of this anger, she decided to continue in politics to defeat Karunanidhi.

Later, in the infamous incident in the Assembly in March 1989, Jayalalithaa was allegedly attacked by DMK members and she vowed to step into the Assembly again only as the Chief Minister. The DMK government, during this regime, brought in sweeping changes to reservation policies. It created a new category of Most Backward Class (MBC) and allotted 20 per cent for it within the Backward Class (BC) quota. The MBC includes Vanniayars, among 107 other communities, and DMK pacified the community members who were demanding exclusive reservation to them. One of the remarkable achievements of this DMK regime was the law amendment providing rights to women in inheriting properties.

One of the main issues on which Jayalalithaa attacked the Karunanidhi government was on the front of law and order. She raised concerns over movement of LTTE members in the State. Also, the illegal visit of Vaiko, then an influential DMK leader, to Sri Lanka to meet LTTE leader V Prabhakaran. In this backdrop, the 1989 parliamentary polls were conducted in November 1989. This time, Rajiv Gandhi had formed an alliance with the AIADMK. The combine swept the polls winning 38 of the 39 seats, despite DMK being the ruling party in the State.

However, at the national-level, Congress could not get a majority. It was National Front that formed the government with the support of BJP and Left parties. But, subsequently BJP withdrew support and Chandra Shekhar, who broke away from VP Singh-led Janata Dal, formed government with support of Congress. The Chandra Shekhar government dissolved the DMK government on January 30, 1991, under Article 356, even in the absence of a report from Governor. This was a rare case of abuse of Article 356.

Cabinet members of Karunanidhi
K Anbazhagan, Sadiq Batcha, Nanjil K Manoharan, M Kannappan, KP Kandasamy, K.S. Mani, Arcot Veerasamy, Pon Muthuramalingam, Veerapandi S Arumugam, Duraimurugan, Subbulakshmi Jegadheesan, S Ramakrishnan, K Ponmudy, KN Nehru, K Chandrasekaran, S Thangavelu.


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp