Demonetisation or Cauvery issue, AIADMK in Tamil Nadu has to get its act together and fast
Even though the senior-most minister in the Jayalalithaa cabinet, O Panneerselvam holds the finance portfolio, the AIADMK has not spoken its mind on the problems arising due to demonetisation
At a time when he is under fire over the demonetisation issue, the sight of the 40-member delegation of AIADMK MPs would have worried Narendra Modi. But he needn't have broken into a sweat. Because they had come to meet him to submit a memorandum over the attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Lankan Navy.
The Prime Minister would have comforted himself with the thought that he can always bank on the AIADMK.
It isn't always radio silence of this sort. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa is known to shoot off letters without mincing words to the Prime Minister. But the only statement that she put out last week from her hospital bed was to her cadre in which she claimed to have taken a rebirth. In the two-page letter, Jayalalithaa also asked the voters in the three assembly constituencies which go to by-elections on 19 November to vote for her candidates.
Not a word on demonetisation, which has affected 7 crore people in her state. It was left to DMK leader MK Stalin to point out the disconnect with what the common man in Tamil Nadu is going through.
Contrast this with Tamil Nadu's neighbours. On Friday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his ministers sat on a dharna outside the Reserve Bank of India office in Thiruvananthapuram to protest against the impact of demonetisation on the cooperative bank sector in the state.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has shot off a letter to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on the plight of the cooperatives in his state, while his Telangana counterpart K Chandrasekhar Rao has flown to Delhi to meet the Prime Minister. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu is taking the credit for 500 and 1,000 rupee notes being declared illegal tender as he was among the first to suggest it.
But all is quiet in the land of Amma. Even though the senior-most minister in the Jayalalithaa cabinet, O Panneerselvam holds the finance portfolio, the AIADMK has not spoken its mind on the problems arising due to demonetisation. Only the Cooperatives Minister Sellur K Raju has issued a statement pointing to the inability of farmers to get new deposits when samba crop cultivation has begun.
Which begs the question — is the Tamil Nadu administration merely going through the motions of governance without Jayalalithaa at work?
Take the Cauvery stand-off with Karnataka. Despite all its protests, the state got nothing much out of the Cauvery agitation and farmers in the delta suffered. It was left to the opposition parties to raise the pitch, but in the face of aggressive posturing by Karnataka, even the Supreme Court found it tough to make the upper riparian state fall in line. Karnataka obviously knew it was dealing with a weakened political administration in Chennai.
The perception about Tamil Nadu is also taking a hit. The state has slipped from 12th to the 18th rank in the state-wise 'ease of doing business' rankings released by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). Its score of 62.8 percent is much lower than Andhra Pradesh and Telangana that are jointly first at 98.78 percent and Karnataka's score of 88.39 per cent.
To add insult to injury, Tamil Nadu, which is one of the most industrialised states in India, has been put under the 'acceleration required category'. Not a surprise considering that of the Rs 19,500 crore worth of investment proposed in 2015, only Rs 500 crore materialised, according to DIPP data. In fact, during Jayalalithaa's tenure between 2011 and 2015, only 5.64 percent of the MoUs that were signed, were implemented.
Is the Tamil Nadu administration merely going through the motions of governance without Jayalalithaa at work?
Though the EoDB ranking concerns the period from July 2015 to June 2016, when Jayalalithaa was in charge, the feeling is that the next year's rankings would see Tamil Nadu go down further.
Last year, heavy rains created havoc in November and December, flooding Chennai. For some months, environmental activists and citizen groups have been pushing for desilting of drains and clearing of encroachments to avoid a repeat of the tragedy of 2015. But with the ruling dispensation obsessed with the health of their leader, there is little clarity on what the administration has done so far. It is Chennai's good fortune that so far, the rain god has not shown any signs of being fast and furious.
Even when the Supreme Court dismissed Tamil Nadu's plea to allow jallikattu during Pongal season in January, there has not been a murmur of protest. Surprising, considering the AIADMK's rather strident stand this year in the run-up to the elections.
Apollo Hospitals Chairman Dr Pratap Reddy has made it clear on more than one occasion that Jayalalithaa can be discharged any time now. It is imperative for the AIADMK to get its act together lest Tamil Nadu falls sick.
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