Indian politics: Tamils search for credible alternative to AIADMK, DMK misrule!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
As the latest Tamil political news pouring in, there is a clear indication that Vaiko led PWF is making headway in poll alliance strategy. PWF’ chief ministerial candidate actor turned politician DMDK leader Vijayakanth has begun the election campaign on April 11 in a mammoth public meeting in which Vaiko, Vasan and other leaders of the alliance also will participate to declare their joint program.
Tamil Nadu appears to be on the verge of a fundamental change in the quality of politics and standard of governance. This impression has been given to the people of Tamil Nadu by the new political formation in the form of a third front known as PWF being led by MDMK supremo Vaiko whose magnanimous attitude in making Vijayakanth of DMDK the CM candidate. Though the PWF was floated last year, it did not have the potential to fight and win the poll against powerful Dravidian parties like AIADMK and DMK.
However, recent swift development bringing Vijayakanth’s DMDK and G.K. Vasan’s TMC into alliance with PWF, has given energy and strength to successfully face the major parties.
Thus far, for years the DMK and AIADMK have ruled – rather misruled – the Tamil state, making the party leaders rich and richer day by day, caring very tiny little for the common masses who form the bulks of voters giving mandate to rule.
Fast growth of PWF into the status of a major alliance seems to have threatened the traditional major parties and their alliance partners who now are engaged in playing poll time mischief of dividing the PWF alliance partners like TMC and DMDK. While DMK is trying to slit Vijayakanth’s party the Congress party of Elangovan is inviting the TMC members to the Congress party from which the TMC of Vasan ceded to form its own party.
However, hardly anyone from both parties looks at DMK-Congress alliance for a truck which has made the Congress-DMK alliance feel badly defeated even before the poll taken place.
That no party of some meaning is interested in having a poll-truck with it has made BJP’s position still worse.
Meanwhile, the PWF and allies are now busy finding suitable candidates for each of each of 234 constituencies. Vasan said their government work for solving unemployment and act swiftly against corruption and liquor.
There is a general acceptance among people of Tamil Nadu for the PWF alliance with TMC and the DMDK led by Vijayakanth in the state which they see as a victory team.
DMK seems to be the worst affected party now as its dream of returning to power on false promises as before has been badly shattered by Vasan and Vijayakanth.
Prohibition becomes poll plank in Tamil Nadu assembly election. PWF and PMK have made total prohibition their poll promise, forcing the DMK and AIADMK also do the same. Just a month away for polling for the Tamil Nadu assembly election, the two Dravidian parties ruling the state for nearly half a century now have promised that they would work towards total prohibition. So whichever party comes to power after May 16, it is clear the state would become no liquor state, but the question is how revenue of around Rs 27,000 crore, which is coming out of liquor sales, will be compensated.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK supermo Jayalalithaa said that if her party is voted back to power, step by step prohibition will be implemented. The strategy would be first reducing the timing of the shops and reducing number of shops and bars, said Jayalalithaa. Jayalalithaa said in the past five years sales has been coming down which is a sign of state started going towards full prohibition. She noted, sales of IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Spirits) during DMK’s period increased by 109 per cent to 4.78 crore boxes and beer sales which was around 1.32 crore boxes in 2005-06 has increased to 2.86 crore 2010-11, during DMK regime. In the past five years the sales dropped to around 2.31 crore.
AIADMK’s main rival DMK also has promised full prohibition immediately and said employees of Tasmac, which is in charge of wholesale liquor sales in the state, will be given alternate jobs.
Targeting the younger generation, the DMK manifesto released on April 11 promised waiver of education loans, tablets or laptops bundled with 3G/4G internet connection and 10GB per month download option for 16 lakh students and smart phones for poor families. DMK would provide smart phones and explaining the reason behind providing smart phones, the manifesto said only through the gadgets people could download the application to know about the various welfare schemes and apply for them.
Total prohibition figured prominently in the manifesto released by the party president, M. Karunanidhi on April 11. The party promised establishment of the Lok Ayukta, enactment of the Right to Service Act, a separate budget for agriculture, a ministry for irrigation, waiver of crop loans for small and micro farmers, reduction in price of Aavin milk by up to Rs. 7 per litre, steps to include fishermen in the scheduled tribes list as ‘marine tribes’ and introduction of milk in the Nutritious Meal Scheme.
The manifesto said, if elected, the DMK government would formulate schemes to offset the loss of revenue caused by prohibition and create a Tamil Nadu Integrated Regulated Marketing Corporation in the place of Tasmac to ensure its workers do not lose their service seniority. To treat alcoholics, a new organisation under the Health Department will be created. De-addiction centres will come up in all districts where treatment and psychotherapy will be offered.
Alleging that the construction industry had suffered heavily during the AIADMK regime, the manifesto said a single window system will be put in place to grant permission within 60 days for construction of houses, factories, offices, multi-storied residential buildings and commercial buildings, and for rationalization of fee for approval. Stamp charges for transfer of property between blood relatives will be reduced. The DMK government would make arrangements to teach English, French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese and Russian in colleges and universities as per the choice of students to enhance employment opportunities abroad.
Without giving details on how the party is planning to compensate the revenue loss, DMK’s Supermo Karunanidhi said his party will take appropriate measures to compensate the revenue loss. Tasmac turnover grew from Rs 139.41 crore in 1983-84 to over Rs 27,000 crore now. There are about 6800 Tasmac outlets across the state. In 1983, Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (Tasmac) was instituted to monopolize wholesale trade of Indian Made Foreign Liquor and that facilitated cost-effective excise duty collection. Closure of Tasmac shops will result in loss of income to the level of thousands of crore of rupees to state, which would force the government to suspend several of its welfare measures as there is not much scope left for further imposing of taxes.
Back to history, in 1937, prohibition was introduced by C Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) in Salem and in phases it was implemented in other parts of the state. But in 1971, DMK government headed by Karunanidhi withdrew the total prohibition. Karunanidhi said it was due bleak economic situation and the shops were closed in 1974, after which, he alleged, that the alchoholic beverages shops were opened by AIADMK government in 1981.
Will complete and permanent prohibition possible? How they will adjust the revenue gap and how they will be funding Government’s welfare and freebies schemes? Political and economists said it is impossible, considering huge revenue from liquor amounting to over 20-25 per cent of the State’s Own Tax Revenue every year. Both the parties do not have real intention to bring in prohibition. If they are going to stop liquor sales, they may have to borrow an additional Rs 25,000 crore to execute all those freebies. Both the parties have not really put their thoughts into the idea and meagerly proclaim prohibition out of competitive spirit in order only to outsmart PWF and PMK.
The ruling AIADMK has been distributing free mixies, grinders, fans, cows, goats and others for the past five years. Over the last decade, successive governments in the State have spent nearly $2 billion (Rs 11,561 crore) on just three freebie schemes – colour television sets, laptops and household appliances. DMK’s manifesto did not have much of electronics freebies. The party which was the first one to introduce the freebies concept by offering free television sets to voters, this time said it will give free mobile sets, for the poor. It also said free 3G/4G will be given to students.
Tamil Nadu’s outstanding debt in 2014-15 was Rs 1,81,036 crore and this is expected to increase to Rs 2,11,483 crore. When the AIADMK took charge State debt was Rs 1, 01,349 crores. One of the reasons is various freebies and subsidy program.
However, it does not mean that prohibition cannot be implemented, and it has to be brought in. The State of Gujarat is revenue surplus even after prohibition, regardless whether their policies are good or not. However, it means cutting down state expenditure in all means and stopping various freebies. PMK said it would stop all freebies that make people lazy to work. .
Tamil Nadu has projected a revenue surplus of Rs 664.06 crore for 2014-15, but reported a revenue deficit of Rs 6,407.56 crore. Though the projection for 2015-16 was a revenue surplus of Rs 783.43 crores, the revised estimates show a revenue deficit of Rs 9,481.14 crores. For 2016-17, the projection is revenue surplus of Rs 311.45 crore, while the budget estimates is a revenue deficit of Rs 9,154.78 crore.
The other problem, according to experts, in implementing total prohibition could lead to illicit liquor. Duplicate liquor will be sold in black, which may even cause health hazards to the public and it will damage the ruling party. Political critics also alleges that many of the distilleries are owned by politicians themselves and over Rs 3,500 crore worth of liquor, are supplied by these distilleries. Suspension of freebies along with expenditure optimization, industrialization could help find feasibility.
Tamil Nadu has been a two party state from 1967 when DMK came to power. Since then the elections have been about two parties – DMK and AIADMK. But for the first time, a third party the PWF has come to fore to challenge the dominance of the two. Both DMK and AIADMK have genuine reason to feel threatened by the popular PWF and allies emerging as a powerful replacement for both major Dravidian parties.
So far the major parties secured alliances with other small parties and ruled the state alternatively. . In 2011, AIADMK had a solid coalition with DMDK, CPI, CPI (M), AIFB and a motley group of smaller and unregistered parties. The DMK had the Congress, PMK, VCK and KMK. In 2006, the DMK had INC, PMK, CPI (M) and CPI. The AIADMK had the MDMK and VCK. In 2006, the DMK won because it had the INC with it which was supposedly doing a reasonably job in its first term. Plus, the PMK was also a part of the central government. All these were positive factors. In 2011, the Congress was doing very badly at the center and the communists had jumped ship to the AIADMK band wagon.
This time around, the traditional allies have shifted their loyalty in favor of PWF. I do not know what the alliances are going to look like.
Experts forecast a fractured mandate or AIADMK or PWF led alliance winning but now gradually the balance is drifting towards PWF. The current Jayalalithaa government hoping to win again has isolated itself in terms of the alliances. The Jaya government, in light of the Chennai / Cuddalore floods has been seen as ineffective at best, and malevolent (sticker brigade) at worst. This does not mean that people would vote for the DMK as the only alternative. However, given that the floods affected about 20-25% of the state, how the people in these 40-50 seats go is impossible to predict. Ideally the DMK would have cashed in on this, but people see the DMK-Congress alliance as joint corruption alliance.
In general, the AIADMK government is seen as self-serving and the party members have gone overboard with their subservient nature. DMK has officially fielded Karunanidhi (who is aged 93 ) as Chief Minister again. This is supposed to ensure a victory, following which his son Stalin is likely to rule the state in an easy transfer of power from father to son. Karunanidhi might ask people to vote “one last time” (like he has done for the last 20 years – 4 elections) and try to get emotional support. PMK’s influence is limited to a couple of districts. The BJP is not an influence on the elections at all.
Tamils badly need corruption free, liquor free governance and they may also see the new PWF led alliance to provide that kind of committed government as they have no reason now to trust the traditional Dravidian ruling parties.
The electioneering has now got the tempos needed for the people to ponder over their own future. They will reject the corrupt parties and choose the best.