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The Jayalalithaa model works: Power to the people and freebies for the poor

Those who persisted in believing that the AIADMK would prevail were the people who live in the villages, the auto drivers and tea makers who have no access to Twitter or Whatsapp or any forms of social media.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK Supremo J Jayalalithaa in Tirunelveli on Thursday. (Source: PTI)

Despite a strong anti-incumbency wave in the state, the electorate in Tamil Nadu did not use use its vote to punish the incumbent, historically the case in past elections. As the AIADMK heads for a clear victory, some of the major factors that failed to work in the Tamil Nadu polls were DMK leader M K Stalin’s nine months long state wide campaign and the alternative promised by the Captain Vijayakanth-led Third Front PWF.

In the run-up to elections, opinion poll-exit poll surveys, news room analysts and `opinion’ makers had predicted a DMK victory. Those who persisted in believing that the AIADMK would prevail were the people who live in the villages, the auto drivers and tea makers who have no access to Twitter or Whatsapp or any forms of social media. A major factor in these polls was that Tamil Nadu has not forgotten the DMK’s previous corrupt regime (2006-2011) and the 2G scam.

There were 62,000 land grabbing cases registered by the Jayalalithaa government against top leaders and functionaries of the DMK in 2011. Despite the clean image of M K Stalin who is not facing any major corruption charges, people had noted that 2G scam accused A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran sat next to M Karunanidhi at his political rallies during the election campaign.

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Stalin’s nine months long state-wide yatra failed as people saw his reluctant father wanting to retain the power. This doesn’t mean that people have given a clean chit to AIADMK. All her top ministers are facing the heat in the last round of counting. Half a dozen AIADMK ministers are trailing and include state power minister Natham Viswanathan (Aathoor) and higher education minister P Palaniappan (Pappireddipatti).

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Jayalalithaa’s governance and policies may have been politically and economically unsound for experts and analysts but for the common man, her manifesto of freebies as well as improvements in the power sector gave them a breather. Besides controlling law and order and improving the power sector, — both ignored during the previous DMK regime — Jayalalithaa managed to streamline the system without too much of a burden on the people — despite the government-run TANGEDCO’s debt of over Rs 80,000 crore. Her freebies over the last five years have also helped the people. These include four goats and a cow to each BPL family, mixer-grinders and fans, free uniforms (3 sets), school, bags, notebooks, geometry boxes, etc., for all children in government schools, and cycles and laptops for Class 11 and 12 students.

Also, in a state where more than half the voters are women, six lakh women received four grams of gold and Rs 50,000 as marriage assistance. Of the 21,628,807 lakh women and their families, must have voted for Amma – as an AIADMK leader would put it. Jayalalithaa also distributed 20 kg free rice every month. Free sanitary napkins, breast feeding shelters and Amma baby care kits were given as a gesture of love for many women.

Those who laugh at the Amma model and Tamil Nadu’s freebies don’t take into account that an engineering college student takes his free Amma laptop to the class without removing the Amma sticker on it. For the poor people of Tamil Nadu, freebies are a welcome gesture and they didn’t think they could expect anything better from any of the other parties.

First Published on: May 19, 2016 2:23:09 pm