ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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What Transforms?

Capital and Democracy in Tamil Nadu

A review of the book, Rule of the Commoner: DMK and the Formations of the Political in Tamil Nadu, 1949–67 (2022), by Rupa Viswanath was published in EPW (1 April 2023). The authors wish to respond to the review by presenting some of the core issues that this book is concerned with, to enable a larger discussion of electoral democracy in India.

Rule of the Commoner: DMK and the Formations of the Political in ­Tamil Nadu, 1949–67 (2022) unambiguously states what the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) achieved in the 18-year period between 1949 and 1967 was the construction of a people: that is, the people of Tamil Nadu (TN), as Dravidian–Tamil, through the formations of the political. It is not one process but two simultaneous processes, and hence the emphasis on the preposition “through.” The claim is substantiated by the fact that the two Dravidian parties, the DMK and its offshoot, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam ­(AIADMK), have ruled the state since 1967. All other parties, both regional and national, have always been minor alliance partners of the two in every election since 1977. Apart from this well-known fact, it also appears unlikely that a so-called national party, ­either the Indian National Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party, will come to power in the state in the foreseeable ­future and hence our claim that a people have been constructed as a vibrant field of democratic mobilisations and contestations and not merely as aspirants to a sovereign dispensation.

We make it clear that our conceptual analysis is about the twin mutually enabling processes of the construction of the people as well as the formations of the political (Krishnan et al 2022: 10). Between the two processes, we posit the formations of the political as more crucial, the reason why we have placed it in the title of the book and dedicated the conclusion to discuss it. While the construction of a people has set horizontal political aspirations, the formations of the political have made possible a relay of contestations of various political ­actors and formations, including Dalit politicians, organisations, and parties, some instances of which are cited in the book.

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Updated On : 19th Jul, 2023
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