We have seen that Periyar was elected while he was in prison, as the leader of the South Indian Liberal Federation, popularly known as Justice Party, in its Provincial Conference held in Madras (Chennai) on 29, 30 December 1938. He was basically a fighter for human rights for all from the beginning to the end of his public life. Now he added a new dimension to his movement, viz., and demand for an independent Dravida Naadu. He was driven to make this demand in 1938-39, because he found the Brahminical upper castes, whom he opposed for their social oppression, were in league with the North Indian Bania community (comprador capitalists) in imposing Hindi and in exploiting economically the people of South India.

Periyar’s concept of Dravidians was not based on the purity of blood related to a race, but on values and ways of life. The Brahminical upper castes who followed the discriminatory socio-cultural principles, practices and traditions of Varna-Jaathi (caste system) originally enunicated in the Sanskrit scriptures like Vedas, Ithihaasas, Puraanas, Dharma Sastras etc. are Aryans. Those who subscribe to the egalitarian Tamil tradition and values of humanism are Dravidians. It may be recalled here that while addressing the conference of Backward Classes and Scheduled.Castes in Kanpoor in Uttar Pradesh in December 1944, he appealed to the Non-Brahmins of North- India to give up the religious appellation of Hindu and call themselves as Dravidians.
The Second World War broke out in September 1939. As a protest against the British rulers involving India in the war without consulting the High Command of their party, the Congress ministries in Madras and seven other Provinces resigned on 29th October of the same year. As Periyar was the leader of the opposition Justice Party, he was asked by the Governor and Governor general twice in 1940 and 1942 to form the ministry. Though a Congress leader, his friend C.Rajagopalachari personally requested Periyar to accept the offer, assuring his outside support to the Justice Party ministry. He explained that he wanted to put an end to the rule of the Governor and his advisers. But Periyar refused to head the Provincial Government on both the occasions. His refusal was on two grounds: First, he felt it improper to form the ministry without a popular mandate. Secondly, he firmly believed that his main task of annihilating caste system and spreading rational humanist principles would receive a set back, if he assumed power.

Periyar left for Mumbai (Bombay) on 5th January 1940. Dr. B.R.Ambedkar gave dinner- parties twice in his honour. They’ met the Muslim League leader M.A.Jinnah at his residence in Mumbai on 8th January 1940. Periyar explained then his decision to work for an independent State known as Dravida Naadu.

On 21st January 1940, the Madras provincial Government ruled by the Governor and his advisers abolished the compulsory study of Hindi in schools. M.A.Jinnah sent a telegram to Periyar congratulating him on the success of his endeavour to ward off the imposition of Hindi.

When the Justice Party was defeated in the 1937 general elections after being in power for a very long spell from 1921, most of its leaders were disheartened and became inactive. It was at this moment of crisis, Periyar accepted the leadership of the party because he always felt the need for the existence of a vigorous political party essentially oriented to work for the upliftment of the socially deprived sections of the people. At this critical movement, two of the old guards staunchly stood by him. They were Sir R.K.Shanmugam and Sir A.T. Panneerselvam. At the time, the former was the Dewan of the Princely State of Kochi (now a part of Kerala) and then became Independent India’s first finance minister in 1947. The latter was a member of the Governor’s council and then a minister in Madras province in 1930s. On 1st March 1940, he lost his life in a plane crash while flying over Oman Sea on his way to London where he was to assume office as an adviser to the Secretary of State for India in the British Government. Periyar lamented that the sudden and tragic demise of Panneerselvam was an irreparable loss to the people of Tamil Nadu.

The 15th State Conference of the Justice Party was held in Tiruvarur in August 1940. It was on this occasion, Chinnakancheepuram Natarajan Annadurai (C.N.A.), respectfully mentioned later as Arignar Anna, became the Joint Secretary of the Party. He fascinated the youth by his unique style of writing and oratory. He played a great role in popularising the principles, policies and programmes of Periyar through his essays, short stories, novels and plays.

In February 1941, the founder-leader of Radical Democratic Party, M.N.Roy, came to Chennai and stayed as Periyar’s guest. He sought Periyar’s cooperation to form a grand All India alliance against the Congress Party. Both of them supported the war efforts of Great Britain as they considered British Imperialism a lesser evil than the Fascism of Mussolini, Nazism of Hitler and the Militarism of Tojo.
As a result of Periyar’s persistent demand, the degrading practice of serving separately the Brahmins and the ‘others’ in the restaurants in railway stations was abolished in March 1941.

The conservative section in the Justice Party disliked Periyar’s radical social reform programme, his critical view of religious literature and the propagation of rationalist ideas. Unmindful of their opposition, he continued his onward march and gathered around him the youth and the common people. It was during this period in 1942-43 that Maniammai joined the movement and came to attend to the personal needs of Periyar. She was devoted to the leader and served him sincerely. They married later in 1949.