Tamil Nadu

Analysis | The art of fielding Ministers to counter the Opposition leader

Thrashing out issues: Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami during a meeting with DMK leader M.K. Stalin at the Secretariat. File photo

Thrashing out issues: Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami during a meeting with DMK leader M.K. Stalin at the Secretariat. File photo   | Photo Credit: DIPR

Even Ministers in the Edappadi K. Palaniswami Cabinet whose portfolios are not linked with their assigned subjects have been rebutting the views of DMK president M.K. Stalin

In a conspicuous development, the ruling AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu has of late been fielding one Minister after another, some of them ranked lower in the pecking order in the Edappadi K. Palaniswami Cabinet, to respond to issues raised by the Leader of the Opposition and DMK president M.K. Stalin on the COVID-19 front.

While it is understandable for Ministers to counter an Opposition leader on issues concerning their respective departments, it is becoming a trend, since the outbreak of the pandemic, that even Ministers whose portfolios are not linked with their assigned subjects have been rebutting the views of Mr. Stalin. Even though this can be explained away by saying that there is nothing wrong under the Cabinet form of government, the trend is uncommon to Tamil Nadu.

Incidentally, the strategy has been employed after Mr. Palaniswami, who has stoutly refused to convene an all-party meeting on COVID-19 contending that it is purely a medical issue, had in mid-April quipped that there was no need to respond to the Opposition leader’s criticisms on the government’s handling of the pandemic.

While Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar has on numerous occasions countered the DMK leader since it was his subject, the government even chose to respond through Tamil Official Language and Culture Minister ‘Ma Foi’ K. Pandiarajan.

However, Mr. Pandiarajan, insists that the AIADMK does not seek to demean the position of the Leader of the Opposition. At the same time, it does not want to provide Mr. Stalin an opportunity for creating an “unnecessary sense of panic” among people, according to the Minister.

Apart from Mr. Pandiarajan, a few other Ministers, including R. Kamaraj (Food) and K.T. Rajenthra Bhalaji (Dairy Development), have rebutted the criticism of Mr. Stalin on the way the government is tackling the crisis arising out of the pandemic. On Wednesday evening, Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar, in a statement, defended Mr. Palaniswami.

‘Collective responsibility’

Asked about the rationale behind the Ministers replying to issues raised by the DMK leader, Mr. Pandiarajan, who is also looking after Zone-4 (covering parts of Tondiarpet and Old Washermenpet) of the Greater Chennai Corporation, says it is part of “collective responsibility” of the Cabinet that the Ministers are giving an account of the government’s policies and measures on COVID-19 management. Besides, the Chief Minister has been making statements on all matters and issues of public importance. “We follow a complete transparency,” he points out, dismissing the suggestion that Mr. Palaniswami is evading his responsibility in replying to the issues highlighted by Mr. Stalin.

“Has he [the DMK leader] ever appreciated any of our work? In fact, it was he who made the demand for assigning Ministers the COVID-19 related work. When the Chief Minister has deployed his colleagues for different zones of the city, did Mr. Stalin greet him,” the Minister asks.

Accusing the DMK leader of being “irresponsible,” Mr. Pandiarajan contends that even during the lockdown period, the Tamil Nadu government’s performance on development has been better than many other States. Two illustrations can be cited — laying the foundation stone for ₹ 235-crore Tidel IT Park project in Avadi [which is being represented by Mr. Pandiarajan] and the signing of MoUs with 17 companies.

The DMK has also fielded some of its second line leaders like T.R. Baalu or first-time legislator PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan to take on the government.

On the AIADMK’s strategy, an office-bearer of the DMK, who does not want to be identified, says that Mr. Palaniswami, by remaining in the position of Chief Minister should reply to each and every issue being raised by Mr. Stalin, even though, in terms of stature, he is “no match” for the latter. When the Ministers give their responses, the Opposition party is contemplating asking its office-bearers of the respective districts to join issue with them.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 12:04:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/analysis-the-art-of-fielding-ministers-to-counter-the-opposition-leader/article31911618.ece

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