Electoral Reforms In India

Tamil Nadu legislature turns 100


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Montford reforms, Elections in India

Mains level : Read the attached story

The Assembly chambers at Fort St. George, the 17th-century vestige of the colonial era, and Tamil Nadu’s seat of power have completed 100 years of existence.

Do you know?

Fort St. George is the first English fortress in India, founded in 1639 at the coastal city of Madras, the modern city of Chennai. The construction of the fort provided the impetus for further settlements and trading activity, in what was originally an uninhabited land.

Elections in Tamil Nadu

  • Tamil Nadu witnessed elections in November 1920 as a result of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report and the Government of India Act of 1919.
  • The electors included only men, accounting for just 3% of the population.
  • The concept of dyarchy came into being with Ministers, who were Indians, gaining limited control over certain subjects, such as local self-government and education.
  • It was then that the office of the Chief Minister, also called Premier, got instituted.

Key works accomplished

  • Reservations in public employment: For the first time, caste became the basis for appointment to public services. It took over 70 years for the Central government to follow the principle in its institutions for education and employment.
  • Above 50% cap in reservation: In December 1993, the scheme of 69% reservation for Backward Classes, Most Backward Classes, SCs and STs got legal safeguard. The law was subsequently included in the IX Schedule of the Constitution, through an amendment passed in Parliament, so that its validity could not be challenged.

Other facts

  • Women’s suffrage: In early 1927, Muthulakshmi Reddy, the well-known medical practitioner and social activist, became the first woman member of the Council and, in no time, became the Deputy President of the Council.
  • Gopuram as an emblem: The symbol features a ‘gopuram’ (temple tower) – characteristic of south Indian temples has been adopted as the state emblem.
  • Change of name: During the two-year rule of the DMK founder C.N. Annadurai, the Assembly, in July 1967, adopted a motion renaming Madras State as Tamil Nadu, which later got the approval of Parliament.
  • Social reforms: It has passed several landmark laws for the welfare of women, such as Devadasi abolition, equal rights to women in property and the constitution of the State Commission for Women.

Back2Basics: Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms

Central Legislature thereafter called the Indian Legislature was reconstituted on the enlarged and more representative character.

  • Bicameral legislature: The act set up bicameral legislatures at the centre consisting of two houses- the Council of the States (Upper House) and the Central Legislative Assembly (Lower House).
  • Election and nominations: It consisted of the Council of State consisted of 60 members of whom 34 members were elected and the Legislative Assembly consisted of about 145 members, of whom about 104 were elected and the rest nominated.
  • Separation of power: The central and provincial subjects were demarcated and separated.
  • Diarchy: The Provincial subjects were further divided into Transferred Subjects and Reserved Subjects, the legislative council had no say in the latter.
  • Communal representation: The principle of separate electorate was further extended to Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians and Europeans.
  • Working review: It provided for the appointment of a statutory commission to report the working of the act after ten years.

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