Editor's Note: As Tamil Nadu heads into poll frenzy, the overarching theme of the campaigns — both by the ruling party as well as the Opposition — is that of governance. While Opposition parties like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) claim a breakdown of governance in the current regime, the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam argues that governance has never been better in the state.
In this series, Firstpost takes a dive into various aspects of governance in the past five years to analyse the merits and demerits of each party’s claim. The first part of the series examined criticism, while the second part looked at how populist politics are eating away at the economy.
In January 2016, Chennai-based Loyola College released the results of a routine survey conducted by their students ahead of every election. The results were rather startling – corruption was placed at the top of a list of key election issues. Thirty six percent of respondents felt that the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government in Tamil Nadu had failed to control corruption. The survey also found that the two Dravidian parties, the AIADMK as well as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) were neck and neck in the contest.
All parties in the state are at each other's throats over the issue of corruption. The spectre of 2G and land grabbing continues to haunt the DMK. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's biggest albatross is the Rs 65 crore disproportionate assets case which is currently being heard in the Supreme Court following a conviction in 2014 and an acquittal on appeal in 2015. All other parties have slammed the ruling party over various corruption-related issues.
One such case is that of an engineer in the state agricultural department who committed suicide in 2015. S Muthukumarasamy jumped in front of a train at Thatchanallur in Tirunelveli district. Allegations abounded that he was driven to that end by the then agricultural minister Agri SS Krishnamoorthy who was said to be harassing him for bribes. Following a public furore, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa sacked Krishnamoorthy and subsequently, he was arrested. The state Crime Branch - Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) is currently investigating the case.
An issue on which the ruling party has taken no action is one regarding allegations of murky power deals. Amongst these are purchase of costly power from private companies at a premium, non-maintenance of existing power generation plants, stalling and delaying implementation of power projects like Udangudi and Ennore as well as a solar power project by the Adani Group which is said to be overpriced. In September 2015, the state Electricity Minister Thiru R Viswanathan denied all charges in the Assembly and no probe has been forthcoming.
The Aavin milk adulteration scam unearthed in September 2014 led to the arrest of influential AIADMK leaders. They were found to have taken over the contracts to transport Aavin milk from the plant to various areas, adulterating the milk en route. The case is pending. Other high profile corruption cases include the Rs 1 lakh crore granite scam and the even larger beach and river sand mining scam, all of which are stuck in various courts.
"There is no big issue in this election," said Stalin Rajangam, political analyst. "There are only small issues which will be made bigger. Land grabbing, threatening will be seen as corruption. AIADMK will not come down due to smaller, invisible corruption. Last time, DMK indulged in land grabbing and that angered people. In Jaya's first term in 1991-96 people saw enormous corruption for the first time openly and they voted her out. Tamil Nadu voters are used to corruption now. It becomes an election issue only when it moves to the next level of threats and goondaism," he added.
The DMK's MK Stalin has spoken out on corruption charges against his sister and prominent party leader. The Pattali Makkal Katchi’s (PMK) scion and chief ministerial hopeful Anbumani Ramadoss too has fended questions on corruption charges against him in a CBI case. Only Jayalalithaa remains mum.
The AIADMK insists these charges are all political ploys to discredit the ruling party. "This is the cleanest government Tamil Nadu has ever seen," insisted a senior party leader on condition of anonymity. The people of Tamil Nadu will ultimately decide.
The author tweets @sandhyaravishan