On February 26, barely hours earlier than the Election Commission declared the schedule for the meeting election, Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi Okay. Palaniswami (EPS) made the final of a string of ‘poll sop’ announcements. In a landmark waiver to retain the assist of ladies, the mainstay of the AIADMK because the days of the late get together icon, J. Jayalalithaa, EPS waived the small loans taken by ladies self-help teams from cooperative banks and societies (by pledging as much as six sovereigns of gold as safety).
On the identical day, the legislative meeting handed a invoice to offer 10.5 per cent reservation for the Vanniyar group in schooling and jobs inside the 20 per cent quota for the Most Backward Classes and De-Notified Communities class, thereby fulfilling the group’s four-decade-old demand. Every new announcement now could be made invoking the ‘Puratchi Thalaivi Amma’ (what Jayalalithaa was referred to as reverentially), in whose identify quite a few welfare schemes have been launched even throughout her lifetime.
A day earlier, on February 25, EPS introduced that 2.7 million college students in courses 9, 10 and 11 can be routinely promoted with out taking the time period exams, a favour to the scholars within the districts who he reckons didn’t have the benefit of on-line courses through the Covid pandemic. For 969,000 college students in government-run and aided schools, 2 GB knowledge with free 4G connectivity is being supplied from January to April 2021. To win over the 1.2 million-plus authorities staff, EPS has raised the age of retirement to 60 (after elevating it from 58 to 59 simply final 12 months).
A farmer himself, EPS has, in what has been described because the ‘Amma of all waivers’, written off loans price Rs 12,000 crore taken by farmers. In one other farmer-friendly measure, they are going to be supplied free three-phase electrical energy around the clock. Large vegetable and fruit markets will probably be inbuilt 10 districts at a price of Rs 20 crore every. The chief minister inaugurated work on the historic Rs 6,941 crore Cauvery-Gundar river interlink challenge which is able to take surplus Cauvery river water to 1000’s of small water our bodies to irrigate 110,000 acres unfold over six arid districts, and likewise present consuming water. The Advanced Institute of Integrated Research in Livestock and Animal Sciences (AIIRLAS), developing on 1,100 acres close to Thalaivasal in Salem at a price of Rs 1,023 crore, was additionally inaugurated.
In the early days of his marketing campaign, on December 19, EPS introduced a present hamper and money grant of Rs 2,500 to all ration card-holders for the Pongal pageant in January. Coverage underneath the Chief Minister’s Health Insurance Scheme has been elevated from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, and a couple of,000 Amma Mini Clinics, every with a physician, nurse and assistant, are to be established to supply accessible, inexpensive healthcare. The authorities has additionally introduced the withdrawal of all circumstances filed through the Jallikattu and anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests and closure of one other 1 million circumstances for violations through the Covid lockdown. Over 100,000 encroachments by the poor to construct properties exterior Chennai have been regularised by giving occupants title rights. EPS has promised homes will probably be constructed free of price for farm labour, homeless farmers and the deprived Adi-Dravidar and Arunthathiyar communities.
“EPS’s welfare announcements are three-fold in nature. The first revives some of the party’s previous promises made under Jayalalithaa, targeting women and their economic empowerment, which few had taken note. Next come the schemes that Stalin (the rival DMK president) announces in the morning that are converted into actionable official orders or tweaked as announcements that very evening. It seems to have prompted the DMK president to hold back on other promises for the his poll manifesto,” says political commentator N. Sathiya Moorthy. A 3rd class are repackaging announcements concentrating on numerous sections. “One such is that MoUs signed by his government will bring Rs 10 lakh crore in foreign and domestic investments, creating 2 million jobs in the short and medium term. In the light of Jayalalithaa’s pompous global investor meets not achieving the desired results on the job front, the target constituency will be sceptical.”
The poll bonanza, although, has enabled the AIADMK to advertise EPS because the get together’s public face impartial of the triangular inner battle involving deputy chief minister O. Panneerselvam (OPS) and ‘outsider’ V.Okay. Sasikala. While EPS is prime of the marketing campaign equipment for the get together and authorities, OPS is sustaining a wait-and-watch technique whereas spending extra vitality (and cash) on projecting himself.
The BJP had, within the midst of seat-sharing negotiations, been prodding the AIADMK to get Sasikala and the breakaway AMMK (Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhgam) again onboard to strengthen the alliance. Sasikala’s nephew and AMMK chief T.T.V. Dhinakaran had put situations for aligning with any get together, saying they might accomplish that if they may “head a coalition and with the sole aim of preventing the DMK from returning to power”. But in a dramatic improvement, on March 3, Sasikala issued a press release saying she was “quitting politics” and requested the cadre “to come together to defeat the DMK”. Sources say this might open the way in which for a rapprochement between the 2 events. The EPS faction within the AIADMK has been against it, whereas OPS supporters felt Sasikala can contribute to bettering the alliance prospects in no less than 4 districts the place her Thevar group has appreciable clout.
Meanwhile, EPS’s largesse continues, unmindful of the influence on state funds. The revised estimates for 2020-21 put tax revenues at Rs 1.09 lakh crore (down 18 per cent) towards the Rs 1.33 lakh crore anticipated within the finances estimates. The interim finances offered on February 23 by OPS, who’s the finance minister, factors out that fiscal deficit will widen to Rs 96,890 crore, which is 5 per cent of GSDP. The state authorities has been crossing the three per cent line on fiscal deficit for the previous 5 years. In 2017-18, it crossed 4 per cent as the federal government took over a component of state-owned energy utility Tangedco’s debt as per the UDAY scheme. With revenues down, the federal government has needed to borrow from numerous sources to pay salaries, pensions and likewise spend on the well being and welfare division to forestall the unfold of Covid-19. The state authorities estimates the income deficit in 2020-21 to be Rs 65,994 crore, 3 times the Rs 21,617 crore projected in 2020-21 finances estimates.
“Though EPS lacks the charisma and connect Jayalalithaa had with the masses, he compensates for it with a meticulous approach. Money management and distribution of resources is a special trait of EPS,” says Ramu Manivannan, head, division of politics and public administration, Madras University, including that “it counters the challenge very well as the DMK is unable to generate mass awareness and a large public response”. Consequently, total debt excellent as on March 31, 2021 is estimated to be Rs 4.8 lakh crore (by March 31, 2022, it ought to hit Rs 5.7 lakh crore). However, the debt-GSDP ratio of the state as of March 2021 will probably be 25 per cent, and as of March 2022, 27 per cent, which will probably be inside the norms prescribed by the fifteenth Finance Commission. “It was unavoidablethe government had to resort to higher borrowings as there was a sharp drop in revenue. Also, expenditure levels had to be enhanced to protect people’s welfare,” says OPS. It stays to be seen whether or not the politics of populism and profligacy pays again on the polls.