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Populism powers TN battle

india Updated: Apr 04, 2011 11:19 IST
KV Lakshmana
KV Lakshmana
Hindustan Times
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Tamil Nadu voters are in for a bonanza, whoever wins – as AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa on Thursday matched and bettered almost every election promise made by DMK patriarch and chief minister M Karunanidhi.

If Karunanidhi promised laptops to engineering students of colleges, Jayalalithaa went one better – laptop computers to all plus One, Plus Two school children and college students without any discrimination. If he promised either a mixie or a grinder to poor women, Jayalalithaa said she would give a mixie and grinder to women along with a fan. "There is no either or, we will give both and a fan too," a calmly confident Jayalalithaa said releasing her party manifesto for the April 13 assembly polls for Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.

Then she promised to give four grams gold to every educated girl from BPL family girl getting married for making of mangalsutra and Rs 50,000 and pucca houses 300 sq feet to homeless constructed at a cost of Rs 1.80 lakh each, and three cents of land for home construction to the poor.

Taking a bitter lesson from 2006 assembly elections when Jayalalithaa released her manifesto and went on a whriwind tour only to find the free coulur TV stumping her, Jayalaluthaa waited long enough for DMK to come out with its promises. Which is why, there is almost a promise-by-promise competition in populism.

She promised something for every section. For the aged, she said she would also give bus passes for everyone who is above 58, and village homes for destitute where they would be given space to live and three square meals a day.

In another promise that may well appeal to people across the state, Jayalalithaa said all those people forced to let go of their land by members of Karunanidhi family and DMK ministers will be returned their lands if AIADMK is voted to power.

Jayalalithaa said in her election manifesto released here in Trichy shortly after she filed her nomination form to contest from Srirangam constituency that power generation would be given top most priority to generate 5000 MW of power, increase use of solar power and biogas so that villages do not go without electricity and industry got its adequate share of power.
"Are you stunned, shell shocked at this manifesto that you have no questions?" she asked the press persons in English when the army of scribes were still expecting her to say more.

“Ours is a growth oriented manifesto and we are going to increase productivity of milk, of cotton, of rice, and industry,” Jayalalithaa said and added in response to a question about DMK’s unwritten promises of washing machines and refrigerators “I am promising only things I can do.”

The promise she lagged behind the DMK was free rice. While the DMK promised 35kg free rice per month per BPL families, Jayalalithaa would only provide 20 kg per month without charging a penny.

Responding to another question from where would she get all the funds for the freebies she shot back, “you will see when it happens. We have explained it all in the manifesto.”
But, she said the DMK government has left the state in heavy debt of Rs 1 lakh crore and it would be a big ask to get the state out of the debt trap and bring it back into the front raking states in the country.

The only concern, Jayalalithaa said, was the money power of the ruling party. Reports of money distribution are coming from everywhere and the Election Commission must take stringent action to check this malpractice, she said.