Tamil Nadu

​Analysis | Countering Opposition: The Palaniswami strategy​

Farmers during a protest against the hydrocarbon project at Neduvasal in Pudukkottai district of Tamil Nadu. File photo

Farmers during a protest against the hydrocarbon project at Neduvasal in Pudukkottai district of Tamil Nadu. File photo   | Photo Credit: M. Moorthy

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has acceded to demands for abolishing common examination for classes 5 and 8 and proposing to declare the Cauvery delta a Protected Special Agricultural Zone

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, who will be completing three years in office on Saturday next, appears to have taken the wind out of the Opposition’s sails by acceding to demands for abolishing common examination for classes 5 and 8 and proposing to declare the Cauvery delta a Protected Special Agricultural Zone (PSAZ).​

The proposed PSAZ has even won endorsement from some allies of the DMK, such as the State Congress chief K. S. Alagiri and founder of the Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi T. R. Paarivendhar, who got elected to Parliament from Perambalur on a DMK ticket. The significance of the decision has to be viewed against the backdrop of a series of protests the Delta has witnessed in the last three years over proposals for the implementation of hydro-carbon projects. Farmers felt that the projects, if taken up, will reduce the fertile zone of the State into a “region of wasteland.”​

DMK unimpressed

Expectedly, the DMK is not impressed. “Except that the decisions have been made purely keeping in mind the ruling party’s political and electoral interests, they will serve no public purpose,” contends I. Paranthaman, DMK’s spokesperson.​

If the government is really keen on the welfare of school students, it would have ensured the distribution of laptops to eligible students. The government cancelled the common examination perhaps realising that it would not be advisable to hold it, in the light of reports of the State recording an “unprecedented rise” in the rate of school dropout.​ ​

As for the PSAZ, Mr. Paranthaman argues that Mr. Palaniswami’s announcement is meant for future projects and not for existing or initiated ones. He does not agree that the ruling party has rendered an important issue, being raised by the DMK, into a non-issue. “By the time the Assembly elections take place [next year], everyone will realise that the Chief Minister’s announcement has remained only on paper,” he feels. ​​

There is a view that the PSAZ proposal was triggered by the AIADMK’s “continuous poor” performance in the Delta region, traditionally deemed a DMK stronghold.​

The region had seen an erosion of the Opposition party’s base when Jayalalithaa was around. But, the 2016 Assembly election results dropped enough hints that the DMK might shortly re-establish supremacy in the region. During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and by-polls to three Assembly constituencies in the central region, the AIADMK faced a washout. Its senior leader, M. Thambi Durai, who was Lok Sabha’s Deputy Speaker, had lost by a huge margin of about 4.2 lakh votes in Karur. In the rural local bodies in 27 districts in December last, except in Karur and Ariyalur, the AIADMK faced an embarrassment as the DMK had secured higher number of seats. ​ ​

Strongly disputing the point of electoral considerations, K. P. Munusamy, the AIADMK’s deputy coordinator, says the “Amma [Jayalalithaa] government’s decision has been governed by long-term interests of the State alone. Food security has been the top priority of the government, overlooking any other factor. When a government takes such a decision, it cannot allow itself to be influenced by petty political considerations,” he responds. He adds that those who cannot stomach that the government is getting laurels from all around over the decision are only criticising it.​ ​

Mr. Munusamy disagrees that the declaration has been made with an eye on the Assembly election. “Had this been so, would we not have announced it long back? Those accusing us of being subservient to the BJP should now understand that the government will go to any length to safeguard the interests of the State and will even take on any government [Centre]. On this issue [hydrocarbon exploration], ours is a regime that takes a stand against that of the Centre,” he explains. ​ ​

Notwithstanding the points and counterpoints, the coming election to urban local bodies will demonstrate on which side lie voters.​

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 7:13:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/analysis-countering-opposition-the-palaniswami-strategy/article30799445.ece

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