The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(AIADMK) led government has completed four years of governance of its second consecutive tenure in Tamil Nadu. The party, left without a leadership after the sudden demise of the former chief minister, late J Jayalalitha, has been struggling hard to keep itself afloat amid mounting crises.
The lack of leadership and decision making skills have landed the government and party in a soup on many occasions.The pathetic handling of COVID-19 pandemic being the most recent example, the incompetence of the government in handling caste atrocities, farmers issues, increasing unemployment and deteriorating public education system has come to the fore time and again.
With increasing proximity to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party seems to be moving more towards the right, than retaining the dravidian tag. The simmering discontent among the factions led by the Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) and his deputy O Panner Selvam (OPS) could further alienate the party from the masses.
SURVIVAL THE ONLY AGENDA
The sudden demise of the late chief minister and the following sequence of events ending up in the merger of EPS and OPS factions after a rebellion by the later, resulted in the resort politics making a debut in the state. Jayalalitha’s aid and then chief of AIADMK, V K Sasikala and TTV Dhinakaran was thrown out of the party after the merger.
The meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and OPS and the subsequent merger of the factions reportedly under the guidance of the RSS ideologue, S Gurumurthy, raised eyebrows about the BJP’s interest on the issue. Even as the Opposition and other political pundits continued to predict the government withering away quickly, the EPS-OPS combo has proved them wrong.
Considering the magnitude of the infighting and the formation of Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) by Dhinakaran, the goal of survival has been achieved by the party. Unfortunately, survival seems to be the only achievement, as the government has been accused of compromising on the interests of the state and failing miserably on multiple fronts.
PUBLIC EDUCATION LOSING FOOT
The public education system in the state, despite being one of the most literate in the country, has been faltering with the government increasingly withdrawing support. The easing of norms for Non Government Organisations (NGO) to contribute more in educating government school students and closure of a number of schools signalled the government’s intention to move away from the responsibility. When the neighbouring state of Kerala successfully strengthened the public education system, the AIADMK-led government has moved towards privatising them.
Prince Gajendra Babu, general secretary of State Platform of Common School System, told NewsClick, “The government has failed miserably in delivering the promises it made during the election campaign on strengthening public schools. The exclusion of stakeholders from syllabus framing and other academic activities have done no good to the student community.”
The government has shown no interest in improving the infrastructure of the government schools to instill confidence in the public. With the government failing to win exemption from National Eligibility cum Entrance Exam for medical admission, it has now resorted to an ordinance for 7.5% reservation for government school students.
FARMERS FIGHT MULTIPLE ATTACKS
The farmers of the state have faced multiple attacks including nature's fury of cyclones and droughts. The two cyclones, Gaja and Okhi, caused huge destruction of crops, but despite that the government did not consider loan waivers.
Commenting on the farmers’ distress in the state, P Shanmugam, state general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), said, “The government has betrayed the farming community which suffered severely during cyclones and droughts. More than 7 lakh farmers are waiting for free electricity connection for almost 15 years. The scheme which came into existence in 1990 has now come to a standstill, affecting marginal and small farmers.”
Meanwhile, the plight of sugarcane farmers is such that only 11 owners are operating 24 mills in the state. The incompetence of the government stands exposed, as these owners delay the payment to the farmers. “These owners stay away from any talks organised by the minister concerned. The Chief Minister does not find anytime to listen to the issues of the farmers,” Shanmugam added.
CASTE ATROCITIES AND HONOUR KILLINGS UNCHECKED
The progressive politics in the state has taken a blow with repeated offences of honour killings and caste atrocities. The silence of the AIADMK government on such issues have played to the advantage of the offenders.
“Even the lockdown has not deterred the atrocities in the state,” said K Samuvel Raj, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front. “We have listed around 69 specific cases of untouchability issues during the lockdown so far. Even prior to the lockdown, the government has shown no interest in curbing the atrocities against the dalits. No minister has ever visited any of the victims, neither has the government condemned any such activities of the fanatics,” he added.
The release of the convicts of the Melavalavu case came as a big shock to the community. In the incident, six dalits had been brutally murdered, including the panchayat president Murgesan. “The release irked the High Court which questioned the process involved. It was an AIADMK legislator who raised the question in the Assembly for which the deputy chief minister assured speedy action,” Samuvel Raj said.
Many honour killings including the one of Udumalai Shankar shocked the state with the free run given to hate mongers in the state. The places of worship, too. were not spared as a temple car was burned in Vizhupuram district.
YOUTH REELING WITHOUT JOBS
The state with a considerable youth population is reeling without jobs and a shooting unemployment rate. The government, on a literal deathblow to the youth aspiring for jobs, set up the ‘Staff Rationalisation Committee’ through a Government Order [G.O. Ms. No.56 Finance (CMPC) Department dated 19-02-2018].
The committee was constituted with the aim of outsourcing works, identifying non-essential posts and introducing contractualisation of works, to reduce the expenditure. Very recently, to cut down expenses, the state government increased the retirement age of government servants by one year, attracting criticism of the youth population.
“The youth of the state have lost faith in the government and have stopped from even registering with the employment offices. With no signs of filling up mass vacancies in various departments, the educated are taking up menial jobs to survive,” said N Rejeesh Kumar, president of the state unit of the Democratic Youth Federation of India.
PANDEMIC AND MISERY
In addition to that pandemic has left the government clueless, without the roadmap to counter it. The government’s lack of preparedness is further evident even as the cases continue to spike in the state, with massive contribution of cases from Chennai city.
The untimely transfer of the Project Director of the Tamil Nadu Health Systems Project S Nagarajan on June 1 and secretary of health Dr Beela Rajesh on June 12 exposed the failures. The transfer of the former, on reports of opposing purchases for the Health Department at higher costs, was a shock to many.
The transfer of the health secretary was attributed to the mishandling of the pandemic, which include the mismatch in number of deaths as per government data and the Greater Chennai Corporation data along with other issues on shortage of staff in COVID-19 hospitals. However, the opinion of her being made a scapegoat to hide the failure of the government still exists.
WHAT IS IN STORE FOR AIADMK?
With hardly a year left, the AIADMK has a lot of issues to address, right from rescuing itself from the damage inflicted due to the mismanagement of the pandemic. The silent discontent in the camps of EPS and OPS may come to the fore as the election approaches, with many ministers trying to project themselves as leaders, which was near impossible with Jayalalitha.
The AIADMK spokesperson Maruthu Alaguraj has a long list of achievements to his party’s credit. “Our Chief Minister ensured political stability in the state after the death of a great leader. He went to visit several countries to bring investments for development. Even if 70% of investments materialise, the growth will be tremendous,” he said.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) spokesperson, M Saravanan, said, “The pace at which the policies framed by the Union government are being implemented in the state is shocking. At times, this government is going one step ahead. The government even announced public exams for ClassV and VIII, which was only in the draft policy. This itself shows the adherence of the AIADMK to the policies of the BJP at the Centre.”
The alliance with BJP was defined as a burden to the party, soon after the near total rout in the 2019 general election. But, the results in the Assembly by-elections came as a pleasant surprise, while the party suffered a setback in the rural local body polls which were held after a delay of three years.
The image building of the leaders and attempts to project the party as a united force could help the party, but the hiccups on various issues including the handling of the pandemic, may go against the party. The act of becoming just a junior partner to the BJP will be another blow to the prospects of the party.