Jaya has huge hopes to meet

Jaya has huge hopes to meet

This landslide victory, five months after a resounding Assembly poll mandate, implies that the ‘amma’ has to bear a heavier cross in the days to come, what with loads of promises to deliver like free rice to ration card-holders to free laptops to students from 10th class to under graduate level in all government-run educational institutions, just to name two.

Thus, with expectations running high and resources scarce, her use of the platform offered by the National Development Council meet in New Delhi recently to discuss the draft 12th Five Year Plan to launch a diatribe against the Centre for reducing the states to ‘glorified municipal corporations,’ was not just a coincidence.

In one of India’s rapidly urbanising states – the urban population in Tamil Nadu as per 2011 provisional census figures, has moved up to 48.50 per cent out of a total population of over 7.21 crore—the AIADMK’s clean sweep of all the 10 municipal corporations beginning with Chennai, is not just historic but also the dawn of new challenges.

Special assistance

Jayalalitha has often craved for a ‘special assistance’ package to Tamil Nadu. That cry for more Central aid has become all the more critical for her now, with the electorate again giving her a big thumbs-up with the AIADMK winning 89 of the 124 municipal chairman posts, 285 of the 526 town panchayat headships, besides capturing a major chunk of the wards at the district panchayat and panchayat union levels.

Even as the elections at the grassroots village panchayat is fought on non-party basis, but a majority of winners align themselves with the ruling party, these staggering numbers point to how urbanisation is leaping across the state, bringing in its wake larger demands for infrastructure ranging from roads, street lights, protected drinking water supply, sewerage pipe links to solid wastes disposal. Jayalalitha has also said all the freebies
promised in her party’s Assembly election manifesto will be fulfilled in about one-and-a-half years.

For the astute DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi, the AIADMK juggernaut rolling through the local body polls, came as no surprise at all, leave alone the opposition’s charge that the ruling party has the advantage of the administration and the police on its side. The Chennai Mayoral poll alone, though, is subject to the Madras high court’s final orders on the DMK and PMK’s petitions challenging the election process.

The results also indicated the time-tested logic of ‘convenience of balance of power’. People at the grassroots level know from experience that the flow of funds for schemes is better if they vote for the ruling party. Any political asymmetry in the rural and urban local bodies when the AIADMK sits pretty at Fort St George in Chennai tends to make everyone worse off.

Nonetheless, the local bodies polls, held after a gap of nearly 25 years, saw the widest possible political spectrum dancing for a bandwidth. Ward after ward saw at least 10 known political parties contesting, in a state known for throwing up a unique model of ‘alliance politics’ since 1967. Except for CPI(M) which nominally went with the Vijayakant-led DMDK, it was, the AIADMK included, each one for self.

All key players, from the DMK, Congress, CPI, Vaiko-headed MDMK, Dr Ramadoss-led PMK, BJP, the two dalit outfits and a host of other known but smaller parties, by going it alone in the polls literally did a ward-level headcount in the backdrop of the Centre undertaking a major caste census.

The DMK’s go-it-alone policy at least helped the party to regain some lost ground to again give it the ‘No 2’ position in the state. But Rahul Gandhi’s strategy of contesting the elections as a national party with strong local support and winning a maximum number of local bodies posts was a non-starter.

The results have been more dismaying for the PMK and for Vijayakant’s DMDK. The latter completely misread the public mood in using this election to emerge as a ‘third force’.

Perhaps,  MDMK leader Vaiko can take some comfort that his gamble had been more rewarding as he almost squared his position with Vijayakant, even as BJP took a few bright spots.

The Left parties had to eat a humble pie, even as the electorate voting a large number of independents is a telling pointer that Tamil Nadu’s search for a third force, aside of AIADMK and DMK, is still a mirage.

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