From the archives: 1996 Assembly polls brought great upset for AIADMK

Its performance in the 1996 Assembly election remains to be the AIADMK’s worst. Strong anti-incumbency helped the DMK-led alliance to a thumping victory.

Published: 01st May 2021 05:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st May 2021 05:10 AM   |  A+A-

Late Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa

Late Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa (File Photo | EPS)

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: Its performance in the 1996 Assembly election remains to be the AIADMK’s worst. Strong anti-incumbency helped the DMK-led alliance to a thumping victory. The AIADMK was left with just four seats. Among the defeated was party stalwart J Jayalalithaa, who lost at Bargur assembly segment.

The BJP, which had contested alone, managed to secure a seat in Tamil Nadu in this election, a remarkable feat given its performance in earlier polls. The Padmanabhapuram seat in Kanniyakumari suddenly gave the saffron party the attention it had been craving for. Soon after coming to power, the DMK government expedited the investigation of corruption charges against former chief minister J Jayalalithaa. The result was her arrest and a 28-day jail stay.

The DMK also got a chance to share power at the Centre as part of the United Front government. But that did not last long. IK Gujral resigned as prime minister and the country faced another Lok Sabha poll in February 1998. This time, however, Jayalalithaa broke her alliance with Congress and formed one with the BJP, a first for any Dravidian party.

Just a few days before the elections, during a campaign visit of BJP leader LK Advani, bomb attacks by a Muslim fundamental outfit rocked Coimbatore city. Just the previous year, the city had witnessed a riot. 
This turned the tide against the DMK. Just two years after the humiliating defeat in the Assembly polls, the AIADMK alliance won 30 Lok Sabha seats, and, for the first time, Tamil Nadu sent three BJP MPs to the Lok Sabha.

Within 13 months, however, Jayalalithaa withdrew support to the Vajpayee’s government at the Centre, pushing the country into another Lok Sabha polls in 1999. This time, DMK allied with the BJP and the
combine won 26 of the 39 MP seats. The DMK shared power in the BJP-led coalition government for almost five years.

What they achieved
On the administrative front, this DMK government was credited with the speeding-up of the IT revolution, introduction of mini-buses for connectivity and establishment of Uzhavar Sandhais. On Tamil identity, Karunanidhi renamed Madras as Chennai and erected a 133-foot statue of Thiruvalluvar on Kanniyakumari shore.

Where they missed
A blemish on this government was the death of 17 labourers after police lathi-charged a protest by Manjolai-tea-estate workers in Tirunelveli. Also, an innocuous effort to name a public-transport corporation after a Dalit icon led to communal riots. As a result, the Karunanidhi government renamed all transport corporations and districts by removing the names of leaders. The districts were renamed after its headquarters.

On February 2, 2000 a trial court convicted Jayalalithaa in the Pleasant-Stay-Hotel case and sentenced her to a year in jail. Shortly after the court’s verdict, AIADMK cadre blocked a bus of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and set it on fire with 35 students inside it --  three girls died in the incident. Others escaped. 


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