By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, Dec 28 (IANS) It is going to be a year of challenges for the two major parties in Tamil Nadu — the ruling DMK under Chief Minister M.K. Stalin and the principal opposition party AIADMK led by Coordinator O. Panneerselvam and Joint Coordinator K. Palaniswami.
After a gap of 10 years, the DMK government came to power in May 2021 after a convincing poll victory dethroning the AIADMK government.
With the honeymoon period getting over, the DMK government under Stalin will be under pressure to deliver on its various poll promises, reduce the spiralling prices and others.
On its part, the principal opposition party AIADMK will also be under pressure with the raids against its leaders and former Ministers by the state’s anti-corruption police.
The AIADMK’s twin leadership will also have to contend with the ousted General Secretary V.K. Sasikala’s attempts to recapture the party.
That aside, the opposition party will also have to meet the corruption cases registered against several of its former Ministers/leaders.
Fulfilling its poll promises that involve financial implications is going to be a major task for the DMK government given the debt and the interest burden.
The DMK had made over 500 poll promises, including a Rs 100 subsidy for cooking gas cylinders; monthly power metre reading; increase senior citizens pension to Rs 1,500; write off education/jewellery loans; monthly Rs 1,000 to women; scrapping of entrance exam of medical college admissions.
While the DMK government is claiming that it has fulfilled majority of the poll promises made, those opposed to the party say that most of them don’t involve financial implications.
Opposition parties in the state, the AIADMK and its allies like the BJP, have been citing DMK’s poll promise of reducing petrol price by Rs 5/litre and that of diesel by Rs 4/litre, and its failure to implement the same.
However the state’s Finance Minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan, ruling out any reduction in the tax rates on the fuel, argued that the Union government has to roll back its taxes on the fuel to 2014 levels.
Rajan said that reduction in tax rates would reduce the state’s revenue by about Rs 1,050 crore.
He also recalled that the reduction of Rs 3/litre on petrol on August 13, 2021 by the Tamil Nadu government would result in a revenue loss of Rs 1,160 crore per annum.
The government has also said some of the poll promises such as reverting to the old pension scheme for government employees will not be met.
The DMK government has also not implemented its populist poll promises like Rs 1,000 per month dole to the female head of the family.
Rajan after declaring “once in a generation reforms a must” and “business as usual” approach cannot continue while presenting the white paper on the state government’s finances, came out with a relatively populist budget.
“Though a white paper on the Tamil Nadu government finances spoke about the necessity to hike tax rates and other things for those who can bear it, the state budget that was presented was a usual one. Perhaps the state government may get into reform mode after the local body elections,” K.C. Palanisamy, former AIADMK MP and MLA, had told IANS.
The local body polls are expected to be held in 2022.
Further containing the spread of Omicron, a variant of Coronavirus is also going to be a major challenge.
On its part the major opposition party AIADMK and its leaders have their own share of challenges to face in 2022.
One of the poll planks of the ruling DMK was to bring to book the AIADMK Ministers who had indulged in corruption.
Already the anti-corruption wing of the Tamil Nadu government had carried out searches and raids on five AIADMK’s former Ministers – P.Thangamani, M.R. Vijayabaskar, C. Vijayabhaskar, S.P. Velumani, and K.C. Veeramani.
Cases have been registered against the former Ministers in the AIADMK government.
After suffering massive defeats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, 2021 Assembly and local body polls, the AIADMK has to face the challenge of facing the polls for urban local bodies next year.
A defeat in the polls will put to question the efficacy of AIADMK’s dual leadership.
The AIADMK also faces the challenge of holding back its middle level leaders and electoral allies.
The two other parties to watch next year will be the Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) and the BJP.
The NTK which became the third largest party in the state in terms of vote share in 2021 assembly polls drew a blank in the rural local body polls.
Further, the Tamil Nadu BJP under its new President K. Annamalai has turned aggressive against the ruling DMK.
The BJP has four members in the Tamil Nadu Assembly.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)