Tamil Nadu goes for assembly polls on April 6, 2021, and this is an election that will officially start off a new era. There’s no Jayalalitha this time. There’s no Karunanidhi. But the fight is still neck-to-neck between the heavyweight parties. On one hand, we have the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) led by MK Stalin while on the other side we have the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), the ruling party and the Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami — and it’s an all-in war. Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will face-off on five assembly seat and the Lok Sabha seat in Kanyakumari. So who, out of the two heavyweights, is leading the battle of promises?
Both DMK’s and AIADMK’s manifestos make tall promises and look more like giveaway coupon booklets rather than a plan document — what a manifesto is supposed to be. From cash handouts to gold to cable connections to Washing machines — nothing is off the table. But this is not something new. Tamil Nadu elections have always made headlines for the towering promises the leaders make and the freebies that are given to the voters.
திராவிட முன்னேற்றக் கழகத்தின் தலைவர் @mkstalin அவர்கள் வெளியிட்டுள்ள ‘2021-சட்டப்பேரவை தேர்தல் கதாநாயகன்’ திமுக தேர்தல் அறிக்கை முழு விவரம்:
— DMK (@arivalayam) March 13, 2021
Taking care of the families
The EPS-led AIADMK who are in power now is contesting the elections in alliance with the BJP. The AIADMK has promised the gold membership of giveaways — they will not only give one government job per BPL (Below Poverty Line) family but also give them a washing machine and cable television connection, the government-owned Arasu Cables. They also promised six free LPG cylinders for free per family — the way fuel prices have seen hikes in the recent days this should be a steal deal. The DMK has a more doable but less lucrative offer on the LPG cylinders. They promised to cut the prices down by Rs 100 if the party wins the election.
Power to the women
Women have been made the focus is both party’s manifestos. Their maternity leave has been doubled — from six months to a year — by both the DMK and AIADMK. But the DMK has a top-up offer as well. They promised to increase maternity assistance to a whopping Rs 24,000. But the ruling AIADMK has promised Amma Patrol vehicles to ensure women’s safety and crack down on crime against women. Sanitary pad vending machines will also be available on campuses said the DMK manifesto.
Prime Focus Education
Both documents have tall promises for education. While the DMK promised to abolish NEET, the AIADMK said they will come up with 10 universities in partnership with the likes of Harvard, Oxford and MIT. That too in the next 5 years. The AIADMK does not only promise to bring in top universities as partners — it has some other tall promises to keep as well. They propose to bring in Public-Private Partnership to fund STEM research, making Tamil education mandatory in every school in the state until Class XII and set up IT parks in every district. The now-ruling AIADMK also promises to provide breakfast in government schools with private participation and also expand the mid-day meal scheme to provide for students till Class XII. They want to set up a separate skill development university in Tamil Nadu and start a 3,500 Crore project to launch an online skill development course. they have also promised to set up an Islamic University along with arts and science colleges wherever necessary.
Who is leading the battle of promises? The DMK has made some serious promises. They assured me that they will dedicate their first assembly session to decide on cancelling NEET. At the same time, they have promised to open coaching centres in every district to help students crack the competitive entrance exams. They have also promised to bring back the state-government mandated reservations in the government-run medical colleges. The party has also promised to start medical colleges in every district hospital. The DMK will give loan waivers to students who completed their school and college education in Tamil Nadu and are unable to repay even when they are over 30. They promised to sponsor the education of every first-generation learner in medicine, engineering and agriculture. Not just that, they will be given preference when it comes to government job recruitment as well.
The DMK wants to make Tamil Nadu a 100% literate state in three years. They also want to introduce agriculture and environmental studies as regular subjects in schools and give linguistic minorities an option to learn their languages. The party proposed transparent examinations to hire teachers and jobs for those who have qualified for the examination in 2013 and are still unemployed.
Now lets come to the common promises. Both parties promised to provide free milk to students across government schools, to set up coaching centres in every district for competitive exams, bring education under the state list and provide tabs and access to the internet. While DMK promises 4G or 5G data-enabled tabs, the ruling party promises 2 GB of data every day all year to college students.
What else on offer?
While the AIADMK promises to change the name of the Madras High Court to Tamil Nadu High court, the DMK has more lucrative promises to offer. They have proposed to open 500 Kalaignar canteens across the state — the Amma Canteens built in the name of Jayalalitha have been running in the state for quite some time. The DMK had once promised to open Anna Canteens in the name of the party’s founder CN Annadurai. They have also promised to reduce the price of milk by Rs 3 per litre. And then it gets down to mere handouts. Rs 4000 has been promised to all those who have a ration card in the state — this will be a one-time transfer. Farmers too have been promised a one-time payment of Rs 10000 when they buy a new motor. The Dravidian party has also promised to fund pilgrimages — Rs 25,000 to Rs 1,00,000.
But the biggest promise by the opposition party is probably the proposition to come up with a new ministry to fulfil the 500 promises they have put up in their manifesto.