TN Politics
DMK and AIADMK have been the predominant Dravidian parties that have influenced state politics.

Understanding the alphabet soup that is Tamil Nadu politics can be difficult for many. Perhaps due to the confusing acronyms and jumble of Tamil words, the unique nature and intrigue of the state’s politics have not been fully understand by most, outside of Tamil Nadu and by many even within the state. Here is a ready reckoner of the very basics. Bookmark this page, elections are just round the corner.

The two main parties of Tamil Nadu are the AIADMK and DMK, the Dravidian majors. Apart from that, parties like the DMDK, PMK and MDMK have had their rise and fall depending on the political dynamics. National parties like Congress and BJP have always been at the mercy of the Dravidian majors. Smaller parties based on castes and minorities, like the Kongu parties and Muslim-centric parties also have their small share of political space.

The state has 234 MLA seats which are elected, 39 Lok Sabha and 19 Rajya Sabha seats.

1. DMK – Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (Dravidian Progress Federation)

Important leaders: Kalaingar M Karunanidhi, MK Stalin

It is a Dravidian party formed in 1949 by CN Annadurai as a breakaway faction from the Dravidar Kazhagam headed by EV Ramasamy, popularly known as Periyar. The Dravidar Kazhagam was formed from the Justice Party in 1944. Karunanidhi has headed the party since 1969, when CN Annadurai died. Karunanidhi is 92 years old and remains the undisputed leader of the party and has been the Chief Minister of the state 5 times so far. His son, MK Stalin, is believed to be the heir apparent of the party but has been waiting to ascend the leader’s throne for several years now.

Karunanidhi has one other son and a daughter in politics, former Union Minister MK Alagiri who has been dismissed from the party and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi.

In the 2011 assembly elections, DMK was in alliance with Congress, PMK, VCK, KMK. For 2014 general elections, DMK was in alliance with VCK, MMK, IUML and Puthiya Tamizhagam.

Seats in Lok Sabha: 0

Seats in Rajya Sabha: 4

Seats in the Legislative Assembly: 23

Vote share in 2014: 23.6%

Vote share in 2011: 22.3%

2. AIADMK – All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (All India Anna Dravidian Progress Federation)

Important leader: J Jayalalithaa

It is a Dravidian party founded by MG Ramachandran (popularly known as MGR) in 1972 after it broke away from the DMK. Jayalalithaa has headed the party since 1989 and remains the single power-centre of the party. She is known to rule the party with an iron-hand, along with her long time aide Sasikala.  She is currently the Chief Minister, and in spite of her brush with the law, she is considered a strong contender.

AIADMK was not in alliance with any major political party during the 2014 general elections. In 2011 assembly elections, the party was in alliance with DMDK, CPI, CPM, MMK, PT and AIFB. It has still not decided the alliance for the 2016 assembly elections.

Seats in Lok Sabha: 37

Seats in Rajya Sabha: 11

Seats in the Legislative Assembly: 152 (including AIASMK which contested under AIADMK symbol)

Vote share in 2014: 44.3

Vote share in 2011: 38.4

3. DMDK – Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (National Progressive Dravidian Federation)

Important Leader: Captain Vijayakanth

DMDK is a political party formed in 2005 by Tamil actor Vijayakanth. It was in alliance with AIADMK coalition for 2011 assembly elections while it was part of the BJP alliance for 2014 general elections. Though the party is not considered a major threat to the two Dravidian majors, it is seen as an important ally during elections due to its vote share and strongholds in certain areas of Tamil Nadu.

Seats in Lok Sabha: 0

Seats in Rajya Sabha: 0

Seats in the Legislative Assembly: 28 (8 have defected)

Vote share in 2014: 5.1

Vote share in 2011: 7.8

4. MDMK – Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (Renaissance Dravida Progressive Federation)

Important Leader: Vaiko (V Gopalsamy)

The party was formed by Vaiko in 1994. He was originally a leader in the DMK but was pushed out because he was deemed a threat to DMK chief Karunanidhi’s son MK Stalin. Since then, MDMK has contested as an ally with several parties including the AIADMK and DMK. The party was at the forefront of the movement to support Tamils in Sri Lanka. The party is now a part of a political alliance called the People’s Welfare Alliance (PWA) for 2016 elections.

The party boycotted the 2011 assembly elections while it was part of the NDA alliance in 2014 general elections.

Seats in Lok Sabha: 0

Seats in Rajya Sabha: 0

Seats in the Legislative Assembly: 0

Vote share in 2014: 3.5

5. PMK – Pattali Makkal Katchi

Important leaders: S Ramadoss, Anbumani Ramdoss

The party was founded in 1989 by Dr. S Ramadoss. His son Anbumani Ramadoss is a Lok Sabha MP from Dharmapuri, and has pitched himself as a Chief Ministerial candidate for 2016 elections. The party is strong in certain parts of northern Tamil Nadu, and draws its strengths from the Vanniyar community.

It was part of DMK alliance in 2011 assembly elections and fought 2014 general elections along with BJP.

Seats in Lok Sabha: 1

Seats in Rajya Sabha: 0

Seats in the Legislative Assembly: 3 (1 person defected)

Vote share in 2014: 4.4%

Vote share in 2011: 3%

6. VCK – Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (Liberation Panther Party)

Important leader: Thol Thirumavalavan

VCK is a Dalit community based political party formed in 1988. The party’s main aim is the abolition of the caste system. It is now a part of the PWA.

It was part of DMK alliance in 2011 and not part of any alliance in 2014.

Seats in Lok Sabha: 0

Seats in Rajya Sabha: 0

Seats in the Legislative Assembly: 0

Vote share in 2014: 1.5%

Vote share in 2011: 1.5%

7. CPI – Communist Party of India

State Secretary: R Mutharasan

The state unit of the CPI, it has a strong presence in the delta districts of TN. In 2014, CPI and CPM contested together while for 2011, it was part of an alliance with ADMK.

Seats in Lok Sabha: 0

Seats in Rajya Sabha: 1

Seats in the Legislative Assembly: 8

Vote share in 2014: 0.5

Vote share in 2011: 1.9

8. CPM – Communist Party of India (Marxist)

State Secretary: G Ramakrishnan

This is the state unit of the CPI(M). The CPM was in alliance with CPI in 2014 and in 2011, it was part of ADMK alliance.

Seats in Lok Sabha: 0

Seats in Rajya Sabha: 1

Seats in the Legislative Assembly: 10

Vote share in 2014: 0.5

Vote share in 2011: 2.4

9. Congress – Indian National Congress

State leader: EVKS Elangovan

Before the Dravidian parties swept the state in the 60s, the Congress was the most influential party in the state under the leadership of Kamaraj, who is still revered. Now the party’s strengths have been significantly reduced. In 2011, the party was in alliance with DMK, while in 2014, it contested alone.

Seats in Lok Sabha: 0

Seats in Rajya Sabha: 1

Seats in the Legislative Assembly: 5

Vote share in 2014: 4.3

Vote share in 2011: 9.3

10. BJP – Bharatiya Janata Party

State leader: Tamilisai Soundararajan

This is the state unit of the BJP, and has had a strong hold in just one district – Kanyakumari. It fought alone in 2011 assembly elections and was in alliance with PMK, DMDK and MDMK in 2014 general elections.

Seats in Lok Sabha: 1

Seats in Rajya Sabha: 0

Seats in the Legislative Assembly: 0

Vote share in 2014: 5.5

Vote share in 2011: 2.2

11. MMK – Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (People’s Conference Party)

Leader: MH Jawahirullah

The party was formed in 2009 and entered into an alliance with ADMK for the 2011 Assembly elections and was allocated 3 seats. It was part of the DMK-led Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA) for 2014. The party has a strong hold on the Muslim community.

Seats in Lok Sabha: 0

Seats in Rajya Sabha: 0

Seats in the Legislative Assembly: 2

Vote share in 2014: 0.6

Vote share in 2011: 0.49

12. PT – Puthiya Tamizhagam

Leader: Dr. K Krishnasamy

The party was founded in 1996 by Dr. Krishnasamy who is the founder-president and looks after the interests of Dalits in southern Tamil Nadu. It formed an alliance with ADMK for the 2011 assembly elections and got 2 seats. It was part of DPA for 2014.

Seats in Lok Sabha: 0

Seats in Rajya Sabha: 0

Seats in the Legislative Assembly: 2

Vote share in 2014: 0.6

Vote share in 2011: 0.4

13. KNMK – Kongu Nadu Munnetra Kazhagam

Leader: ‘Best’ S Ramasamy

The party was founded in 2001 and based in the Kongu region of Western TN, and has a strong hold over the Kongu vellalars community. It contested 7 seats in 2011 assembly elections in alliance with DMK and lost all.  

Seats in Lok Sabha: 0

Seats in Rajya Sabha: 0

Seats in the Legislative Assembly: 0

14. AISMK – All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi

Leader: R. Sarathkumar

The party was founded in 2007 by Sarathkumar who is backed by the Nadar community. It contested and did not win any seats in the 2011 assembly elections in alliance with ADMK. 

Seats in Lok Sabha: 0

Seats in Rajya Sabha: 0

Seats in the Legislative Assembly: 2 (contested under AIADMK symbol)

15. Tamil Maanila Congress 

Leader: G.K. Vasan

It was formed in 1996 by GK Moopanar as a breakaway faction of the Congress as it was opposed to the party high command's decision to ally with the AIADMK. After Moopanar's death in 2001, his son GK Vasan became the party president. In 2002, TMC merged with Congress before splitting again in 2014.