With elections nearing the state of Tamil Nadu has been flooded with visits by political big guns, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi.. The upcoming polls have resulted in the state garnering an unusual degree of attention, particularly from the BJP. That said, the number of visits by political bigwigs is set to increase in the coming days.
With the two Dravidian parties, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), facing their first assembly election without their late stalwarts, they are leaving no stone un-turned as well.
The AIADMK has a bit more to worry about, with estranged leader and former general secretary V.K. Sasikala legally challenging her removal from the post after ten days of her release from the Central Jail in Bengaluru.
Meanwhile the AIADMK government continues with its announcement spree with the waiver of agricultural loans from cooperative banks being the latest.
DESCENT OF NATIONAL LEADERS
Leaders of the national parties, including the BJP and the Congress, have been visiting the state frequently with elections fast approaching. The PM also visited the state a week ago with another visit scheduled for February 25. His colleagues, Amit Shah, J.P. Nadda and Nirmala Sitharaman have either visited or are set to visit the state shortly.
As part of his regular effort to connect better with the local people the PM is known to choose his attire and the content in speech accordingly. His recent visit saw him refer to quotes by famous poets like Avvaiyar, a Sangam-era poetess and Subramaniya Bharathi or Bharathiyar. However, the references backfired as Tamil scholars accused the government of reducing the allocation for the development of Tamil while Sanskrit had larger allocations.
The undue delay in the construction work at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Madurai and in several railway projects have been highlighted by the opposition parties, much to the discomfort of the BJP.
Rahul Gandhi has also become a familiar face in the state with his frequent visits, but the party seems all too weak to harvest its benefit in the state. The leader has managed to strike a chord with the public, particularly college students, on different meetings; however the infighting within the party seems unending.
CPI(M) leaders are scheduled to visit the state by the end of the month with the party scheduling 12 public meetings across the state. The CPI held a massive public meeting on February 18 in Madurai, with several opposition leaders participating.
WAIVER FOR ELECTORAL GAIN?
The recent turbulence within the AIADMK has seen it being limited to playing the role of junior partner and aide to the BJP after the demise of J.Jayalalithaa. The party faced its consequences in the form of a massive drubbing in the 2019 General Elections while managing to hold on to a majority in the state by winning a respectable number of seats in the bye-elections.
The party has been desperately trying to save face with a beeline of announcements intended to elicit electoral gains. The announcement of a loan waiver to the tune of Rs 12,110 crore to 16.43 lakh farmers was the most recent move. The follow up was quick, contrary to the usual practice, with loan waiver certificates issued to the beneficiaries within a week of the announcement.
Farmers’ associations and opposition parties welcomed the loan waiver, but termed them ‘political gimmicks’. The DMK has promised a loan waiver after forming the government, an announcement which the AIADMK leadership objected to. DMK chief M.K. Stalin claimed the AIADMK government copied the promises made by his party.
DELTA DISTRICTS IGNORED?
The uneven distribution of the loan waiver also came in for scrutiny after The Hindu reported on the higher number of beneficiaries from a select few districts. A section of farmers flagged the highest amount being from Salem district, the hometown of Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami (EPS).
The delta region, known for its paddy cultivation, has not seen much by way of loan waivers. Loans waived in four districts – Thanjavur, Thiruvarur, Mayiladuthurai and Nagapattinam – accounted for Rs 1,133 crore, which was less than 10% of the waived amount, The Hindu reported.
However, the report also quoted the jurisdiction of the Central Cooperative Banks and Primary Agricultural Cooperative Credit Societies as the reason behind the uneven distribution.
SASIKALA CHALLENGES REMOVAL AS GENERAL SECRETARY
The silence of V.K Sasikala after her release from prison after being convicted in the disproportionate assets case was intriguing. The estranged leader filed a petition in the Madras High Court, which was later transferred to a civil court against the general council resolution on her removal from the post of general secretary. The case is set to be heard on March 15.
The party suffered a setback when the ‘two leaves’ symbol was frozen prior to the R.K. Nagar bye-elections. The two factions, one led by E. Madhusudhanan, the presidium chairman, O. Panneer Selvam and S. Semmalai and the other led by Sasikala and TTV Dhinakaran had to adopt new names and symbols to contest.
Such a threat may be unreasonably, considering the proximity of the AIADMK leadership with the BJP, but a few ministers talking about a unification is also worrying for the party.
MNM-AAP CONTINUE ALLIANCE TALKS
The two relatively new parties in the state, the Makkal Neethi Maiam (MNM) led by actor Kamal Haasan and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) continued their alliance talks. The parties have reportedly held two rounds of talks, with some individuals and non-government organisations being part of the alliance.
The MNM has rejected the possibility of allying with the DMK or AIADMK and has invited parties – who accept Haasan as the CM candidate – to join the fold,. The presence of the MNM in rural areas is highly limited while the AAP has a very negligible presence in the state. The state AAP unit suffered a split even before making any impact in electoral politics.
The two parties project a voice for change in the state politics, but their impact is expected to be limited, given their influence.