Tamil Nadu polls: EPS chief minister’s series of announcements pollsNews
On February 26, just hours before the Election Commission declared the timetable for parliamentary elections, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS) made the latest in a series of announcements of ” survey ”. In a historic waiver to retain support for women, the mainstay of AIADMK since the days of late party icon J. Jayalalithaa, EPS has waived small loans taken out by women’s support groups with women. banks and cooperative societies (by committing to six gold sovereigns as collateral).
On the same day, the Legislative Assembly passed a bill providing for a 10.5% reserve for the community of Vanniyar in education and employment within the 20% quota for the most backward class category and unreported communities, thus fulfilling the four decades of the community. -old request. Each new announcement is now made by invoking the “Puratchi Thalaivi Amma” (what Jayalalithaa reverently called), in whose name many welfare programs were initiated even during his lifetime.
A day earlier, on February 25, EPS announced that 2.7 million students in grades 9, 10, and 11 would be automatically promoted without taking quarterly exams, a favor to students in districts that it said didn’t did not have the benefit of online courses. during the Covid pandemic. For 969,000 students in government-run and assisted colleges, 2 GB of data with free 4G connectivity is provided from January to April 2021. To gain more than 1.2 million government employees, EPS has noted the retirement age to 60 (after raising it from 58 to 59 last year).
A farmer himself, EPS has, in what has been described as “the Amma of all waivers,” written off loans worth Rs 12,000 crore taken out by farmers. In another measure favorable to farmers, they will receive free three-phase electricity 24 hours a day. Large vegetable and fruit markets will be built in 10 districts at a cost of Rs 20 crore each. The Chief Minister inaugurated work on the historic Cauvery-Gundar River Interconnection Project at Rs 6,941 crore, which will carry excess water from the Cauvery River to thousands of small bodies of water to irrigate 110,000 acres spread over six arid districts and also provide drinking water. The Advanced Institute for Integrated Livestock and Animal Science Research (AIIRLAS), located on 1,100 acres near Thalaivasal in Salem at a cost of Rs 1,023 crore, was also inaugurated.
At the start of its campaign on December 19, EPS announced a gift basket and cash grant of Rs 2,500 to all ration card holders for the Pongal festival in January. Coverage under the Chief Minister’s health insurance scheme has been increased from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, and 2,000 Amma mini-clinics, each with a doctor, nurse and assistant, are to be established to offer accessible and affordable health care. The government has also announced the withdrawal of all cases filed during the Jallikattu and anti-citizenship (amendment) law protests and the closure of another million cases for violations during the Covid lockdown. More than 100,000 encroachments by the poor to build houses outside of Chennai have been regularized by giving the occupiers property rights. EPS pledged that houses would be built free of charge for agricultural labor, homeless farmers and the underprivileged communities of Adi-Dravidar and Arunthathiyar.
“EPS social assistance announcements are threefold. The former revives some of the party’s previous promises made under Jayalalithaa, targeting women and their economic empowerment, of which few had taken note. Then come the stratagems that Stalin (the rival president of DMK) announces in the morning and which are converted into workable official orders or changed into announcements the same evening. This seems to have prompted the chairman of DMK to withhold other promises for his poll manifesto, ”said political commentator N. Sathiya Moorthy. A third category includes repackaging ads targeting various sections. “One of them is that the memoranda of understanding signed by his government will bring a crore of Rs 10 lakh in foreign and national investments, creating 2 million jobs in the short and medium term. In light of Jayalalithaa’s pompous meetings of global investors not getting the desired employment outcomes, the target group will be skeptical.
The ballot windfall, however, enabled AIADMK to promote EPS as the public face of the party, regardless of the triangular internal conflict involving Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam (OPS) and the “foreigner” VK Sasikala. While EPS is at the top of the party and government campaign machinery, OPS maintains a wait-and-see strategy while spending more energy (and money) to project itself.
The BJP had, in the midst of the seat-sharing negotiations, pushed the AIADMK to bring Sasikala and the AMMK breakaway (Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhgam) back on board to strengthen the alliance. Sasikala’s nephew and AMMK leader TTV Dhinakaran had set conditions to align with any party, saying they would if they could “lead a coalition and for the sole purpose of prevent the DMK from coming back to power ”. But in a dramatic development, on March 3, Sasikala issued a statement saying she was “leaving politics” and called on the cadre “to unite to defeat the DMK”. According to some sources, this could pave the way for a rapprochement between the two parties. The AIADMK’s EPS faction opposed it, while PAHO supporters believed that Sasikala can help improve the alliance’s prospects in at least four districts where his community of Thevar has considerable influence.
Meanwhile, EPS’s largesse continues, regardless of the impact on state finances. Revised estimates for 2020-2021 put tax revenue at Rs 1.09 lakh crore (down 18%) against Rs 1.33 lakh crore forecast in the budget estimates. The provisional budget presented on February 23 by OPS, who is the Minister of Finance, underlines that the budget deficit will widen to Rs 96,890 crore, or five percent of the GSDP. The state government has passed the 3% budget deficit mark over the past five years. In 2017-2018, it crossed 4% when the government took over part of the debt of the Tangedco electricity utility in accordance with the UDAY program. With declining revenues, the government has had to borrow from various sources to pay salaries, pensions and also spend on the health and welfare department to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The state government estimates the revenue shortfall in 2020-2021 at Rs 65,994 crore, or three times the Rs 21,617 crore projected in the 2020-21 budget estimates.
“Although EPS lacks the charisma and connection that Jayalalithaa had with the masses, it makes up for it with a meticulous approach. The management of money and the distribution of resources are a special feature of PSE, ”explains Ramu Manivannan, head of the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Madras, adding that“ this falls very well on the agenda. challenge because the DMK is unable to generate mass awareness and a great public response ”. Therefore, the overall outstanding debt as of March 31, 2021 is estimated at Rs 4.8 lakh crore (as of March 31, 2022, it should reach Rs 5.7 lakh crore). However, the state’s debt / GSDP ratio in March 2021 will be 25 percent, and in March 2022, 27 percent, which will be within the standards prescribed by the 15th Finance Committee. “It was inevitable that the government had to resort to higher borrowing because there was a sharp drop in income. In addition, spending levels had to be increased to protect the well-being of people, ”OPS says. It remains to be seen whether the politics of populism and debauchery pay off at the polls.