Tamil Nadu has been shamed by its political structure
It is a sinking feeling out there in Chennai. Visual proof came in the form of the Mount Road caving in on Sunday, taking along with it a bus and a car. Apart from negligence in digging for the Chennai metro, the incident was also a commentary on the state of affairs in Tamil Nadu.
The Municipal Administration minister SP Velumani However, was not in the news for the state of infrastructure in Tamil Nadu’s capital. His name figured in a list that was among the many documents that were seized during the Income Tax raids on Health minister C Vijayabaskar’s properties. If the document is genuine, Velumani had been allocated Rs 14,91,64000 to bribe 37291 voters with Rs 4000 each.
Not that Velumani is the only minister who is minister in absentia. The document that has as its subject `RK Nagar assembly constituency byelection 2017 : Candidate TTV Dhinakaran’, lists out the 256 divisions, the RK Nagar constituency has been broken down to. It points to how chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami, Velumani and four other ministers and one Rajya Sabha MP have been put in charge of 30000 to 40000 voters each. The clinical approach to bribing 2.24 lakh voters with Rs 4000 each is articulated in the note, with amounts allocated to each of the seven VIPs mentioned. The total amount to be spent on providing this `ATM’ at every doorstep comes to Rs 89.65 crore.
Agriculture minister Doraikkannu too has a lot of answering to do. He is an MLA from Papanasam in Thanjavur district, the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu. Incidentally, it is this Cauvery delta region that has seen the maximum number of farmer deaths since October 2016. But Doraikkannu and the political leadership of the AIADMK have done precious little to reach out to the farmers. Which is why representatives of farmer organisations are protesting in Jantar Mantar in New Delhi since mid-March. On Monday, dejected by the Prime minister’s inability to meet a delegation of the farmers, some of the protesters ran naked outside the PM’s home in New Delhi.
When the man who produces food for the state and the country is forced to strip himself of dignity, it is a warning sign that something is seriously wrong. Ideally it should be the Tamil Nadu government that should be leading the demand for a loan waiver, however contentious it may be, or get sufficient relief for drought. At the moment, it has got Rs 2000 crore against its demand for Rs 39000 crore. The worst drought in Tamil Nadu in 140 years certainly deserves more compassion from the Centre.
The ruling BJP at the Centre could have done better than turning a blind eye to Tamil Nadu farmers or trying to defame some of the farmer leaders. All it needed was for the PM to console the farmers just to tell them that he is there for them. In the absence of any such gestures, the feeling of being treated like stepchildren, of the BJP being more pro-Karnataka than Tamil Nadu because of the election next year in the upper riparian state, gain currency.
The problem primarily lies with the AIADMK regime. Tamil Nadu’s political establishment’s priorities till the byelections were cancelled on Sunday night were only on winning the RK Nagar seat for the Sasikala camp of the AIADMK. In fact, last month itself chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami is believed to have instructed top bureaucrats not to disturb him with routine matters till RK Nagar was taken care of. When a win in a bypoll is more important than 270 farmer deaths, you know that governance in Tamil Nadu is rotting away, sacrificed at the altar of RK Nagar.
If that was not enough, the Election Commission’s decision to rescind the RK Nagar election has been the final nail on the coffin. In its elaborate 29-page order, the EC slams the political leadership by pointing out that it has “seriously vitiated” the poll atmosphere. It added “the top leadership cannot feign ignorance about such illegal activities”.
Tamil Nadu has been shamed. It has come across as a state where life does not have a value, where winning elections is everything even if it means the politically powerful have to get their hands soiled in the muck and where citizen safety and services are not to be expected.
Isn’t it high time Tamil Nadu rebooted its operating system?