Populism and Politics in Contemporary Tamil Nadu

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26 Citations (Scopus)


Commentary on Indian politics frequently uses the term populism narrowly to refer to short-term, electorally driven expenditure. However the term is more insightfully used when referring to an ideological construct that celebrates the importance of the people as an undivided group. Politics in Tamil Nadu has had a strongly populist character since the 1960s with both the DMK and AIADMK making appeals to the ‘people’ of the state. In the last decade the DMK has adjusted its populist appeals to better connect with lower status groups, a constituency traditionally targeted by the AIADMK. The AIADMK re-worked its approach, using a technocratic populist discourse during its campaign to win the 2011 assembly elections, addressing concerns of higher status voters while still acknowledging its poorer supporters. Populist appeals have been adjusted to compensate for political weaknesses in the two governing parties. Economic and social changes since the late 1990s have created opportunities, as well as imperatives, for reworking populist appeals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-381
JournalContemporary South Asia
Issue number4
Early online date31 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Populism, Populist, Technocratic, DMK, AIADMK, Tamil Nadu, India


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