Dravidian politics: a history

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DMK, 1999-2014; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, February 14, 2016
Dravida politics, backstory: 1925-72; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, May 9, 2016

Dravidian politics: a history

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Food and Dravidian politics

The Times of India

By Jaya Menon & Pratiksha Ramkumar | TNN 21 April 2013

Food has always been a vital ingredient in Dravidian politics — be it the free mid-day meal scheme launched by the Justice Party in the 1920s, and later popularised by late matinee idol and AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran in the 1980s, or the universal public distribution system (PDS) through which successive governments in TN have distributed cheap and even free rice to win votes.

The 1967 assembly election in the state was fought purely on rice. DMK founder and chief ministerial aspirant C N Annadurai’s election slogan ‘Moonru padi latchiyam, oru padi nichaiyam’ (Four-and-a-half kg for Re 1 is our aim, one-and-a-half kg for Re 1 is certain) was a huge hit and his party swept to power. In the 1980s, MGR extended the free mid-day noon meal scheme to cover students of all corporation and government-aided schools. Earlier, only children of Chennai corporation schools were covered by the scheme.

Until the 2006 assembly elections, the first three kg of 20 kg rice was sold at Rs 2 per kg and the remaining 17 kg rice was sold at Rs 3.50 per kg. During the state polls in 2006, DMK chief M Karunanidhi promised Rs 2 per kg rice and in the 2011 elections he improved it to Re 1 per kg rice. But the same year, AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa was one up on her rival promising 20 kg free rice every month and 30 kg for those below the poverty line.

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