CHIEF MINISTER M KARUNANIDHI TO CHIEF MINISTER IN WAITING AMMA JAYALAITHA MELLA PO MELLA PO

jaya1.jpg

Clearly, successive defeats in elections since 2004 had taught Jayalalithaa the importance of a strong alliance. In 2006, she went almost on her own against a formidable front of DMK-Congress-PMK-Left and had to settle with just 60 seats. This time, she showed an uncharacteristic willingness to negotiate and conceded seats from the AIADMK’s share to Vijayakanth’s DMDK and the Left.

“In fact, in the last elections itself, the AIADMK would have won but for the DMDK. In 50-odd assembly segments, DMDK’s votes were higher than the winning margin of DMK candidates,” said political observer Gnani.

What the AIADMK-DMDK alliance did was to prevent a split in the anti-DMK votes. Many seasoned AIADMK leaders pitched for an alliance with the DMDK, which has a 10% vote spread

People were crying with joy as the news of victory spread. “We won, we won… we won the election,” was the chant in the streets of West Bengal. Soon enough the firecrackers started to go off in the capital city of Kolkata and you could hear the roaring of an impatient crowd. The euphoria of a new government is fresh in the air.
Bengal has a new government after thirty-four years of CPI(M) rule and Bengalis have high expectations for a government with limited resources.
Didi will inherit a dismal economy and a suffering state. Even though, she has the ability to meet these expectations, she will also need to develop a sound strategy. So, I thought I would put forth my humble strategy for West Bengal drawing from my World Bank experience* (though she does have brilliant strategists such as Amit Mitra with her).
Here it goes:
The first issue that Didi will have to fight is unemployment. In various rallies Didi has promised jobs for the unemployed and she will need to deliver to an increasingly restless West Bengal. Now, West Bengal’s suffering infrastructure (i.e. lack of connectivity through roads, few industrial parks etc.) can become a boon in this context. She can start by employing low-skilled workers on unfinished government projects. But that won’t be enough. She also needs to announce new infrastructure projects. Both of these will be able to employ quite a number of people in the short-term.
To a great extent she has already executed on this strategy by bringing in railway projects to West Bengal but now she needs build on it further. Particularly if she focuses on constructing roads, she will not only be able to increase employment but also connectivity. The state budget for West Bengal is expected to be a handsome sum and hopefully much of this will go to infrastructure projects.  Employing people through government projects, though, is short-term strategy (1-3 years). In the longer term Didi will need to bring in private sector.
A reformed attitude toward private sector is needed immediately. If the state can be portrayed as private sector friendly, then investors will gladly come. This can be done with the additional support of organizations such as Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (and Dr. Mitra becomes particularly important here).  West Bengal needs to rebrand itself as the investor-friendly state because private sector is the only known source of sustained job creation.
Secondly, government schools in West Bengal need to be strengthened through quality instructions and innovation in the classroom. The Andhra Pradesh state government is investing on educational research and the Bengal government can draw from their studies to restructure government schools in the state. The low hanging fruit is to improve the mid-day meal program. However, TMC should not only work on mid-day meal programs but also improve the quality of education. Innovative classroom technologies such as using television as a mode of instruction can be particularly promising. Thus, the government needs to increase its focus on improving the quality of education and building human capital.  Along the same lines, there also need to be several vocational education institutes that can give youth the needed skills to become competitive in the job market (particularly because youth unemployment issue is a severe issue).
Thirdly, the government needs to bring electricity and water to the state. Both of these are lacking particularly in the backward districts in West Bengal. Rather than going through the centralized model that can be bogged down in bureaucracy, the government should start exploring the possibility of working with private actors (particularly for-profit social enterprises) who are growing quite active in this field and can produce clean water and electricity through decentralized stations in a shorter time-span. Additionally, more jobs will be created through these actors who will work on the gram-level.
Fourthly and finally, the government needs to revamp and restructure the existing law and order conditions. Currently, there are four police officers for every one lakh people. In order to maintain stability, more police officers are needed.
As Didi comes in to office, she is likely to have tremendous support. The existing momentum for change in the first few months in office will make it easier for her to implement many of these policies. Thus, while she still hasmanush (people) in her favor, she should start working on these policy issues. The time for change is now and with the right plan she will be able to take Bengal back to her glory days of the 1960s and 70s.
*The views presented in this article are the authors and not a reflection or indication of any World Bank Policy.
TIRUCHI: In February this year, J Jayalalithaareached out to actor-politician Vijayakanth and ceded 41 out of the 234 assembly seats to DMDK, a gesture uncharacteristic of the AIADMK chief. The seat offer took place a few days after the two leaders had engaged in a verbal duel. That marked the beginning of AIADMK’s efforts to cobble together a coalition to match the formidable alliance that the DMK headed.

Jayalalithaa’s action to rope in DMDK and many smaller parties proved to be a masterstroke. The 13-party strong alliance comprehensively won even in the northern districts of Tamil Nadu, where the DMK had banked on the combined strength of the Vanniyar-based PMK and Thol Thirumavalavan’s Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi to make substantial gains.

Clearly, successive defeats in elections since 2004 had taught Jayalalithaa the importance of a strong alliance. In 2006, she went almost on her own against a formidable front of DMK-Congress-PMK-Left and had to settle with just 60 seats. This time, she showed an uncharacteristic willingness to negotiate and conceded seats from the AIADMK’s share to Vijayakanth’s DMDK and the Left.

“In fact, in the last elections itself, the AIADMK would have won but for the DMDK. In 50-odd assembly segments, DMDK’s votes were higher than the winning margin of DMK candidates,” said political observer Gnani.

What the AIADMK-DMDK alliance did was to prevent a split in the anti-DMK votes. Many seasoned AIADMK leaders pitched for an alliance with the DMDK, which has a 10% vote spread across the state. They knew the damage the actor-politician could do to the party’s prospects, if he chose to project DMDK as an alternative to both the DMK and the AIADMK.

The alliance, of course, faced numerous hurdles, especially after Jayalalithaa unilaterally released her party’s list of candidates for 160 constituencies. This led to the Vaiko’s MDMK snapping ties with the AIADMK. The Left parties and the Puthiya Thamilagam held a meeting with Vijayakanth sparking rumours that they intended to float a third front. But the differences were ironed out and seats sharing talks concluded. Again, when Vijayakanth kept away from the AIADMK front’s mega rally in Coimbatore, there was talk of the alliance collapsing over the egos of the two leaders.

AIADMK cadres say that although the alliance played a role in shaping the victory, there were several other factors that contributed, key among them, of course, Amma herself. “The landslide victory is an indication of people’s trust in Amma,” said V Senthil Balaji, an AIADMK candidate. “People trust that Amma could give a corruption-free rule,” he says. Yes, the anti-incumbency wave that arose over the 2G scam added wind to her sails.

Political bandwagons have screeched to a halt in Tamil Nadu and Kerala which go to the polls on Wednesday. Now for the silent revolution.

Almost immediately after the hullaballoo ended at 5 pm on Monday, the major political parties activated their war rooms. It is here the Machiavellians plot their 24-hour revolution through black money, white lies and grey areas. Their foot soldiers would soon fan out, wielding such weapons of mass deception as wads of currency, glib talk and gallons of chemicals to put makers of the indelible ink to shame and show the middle finger to democracy.

In many parts of the Dravidian land, newspaper readers anxiously open page-three without a glance at page-one. For, tucked away there would be crisp currency note from which the Father of the Nation smiles a tired smile. Some others open their doors before the milkman comes, and find dhotis and saris that had mysteriously materialised overnight. The only signs of the midsummer Santa Claus would be on the borders of the fabric that depict rising suns or a pair of leaves.

The election commission has so far seized Rs 33 crore from people who were ostensibly out to distribute them for votes. Among those arrested for cash distribution was former telecom minister A Raja’s elder brother A Kaliaperumal. Chief minister M Karunanidhi compared the EC’s crackdown to the Emergency; many ‘traders’ went to courts saying the commission was harassing them while they were just transporting money for their livelihood. The courts said such people could get back their money by producing proof that they were being taken on genuine business. None has claimed back his ‘trade’ money yet.

In the neighbouring God’s invented country, currency notes are not so much in abundance. And whatever little they have are put to better use—like investing on election-day operations. Not much has changed since former chief election commissioner TN Seshan famously remarked a couple of decades ago that Communist party members are the best practitioners of Rig Veda. “They rig the polls with such finesse,” he had quipped. Only that nowadays the Congress, too, does it with elan.

Here’s a peep into a typical operation. In Kerala’s palm-fringed backyards of polling stations, beedi-smoking activists hide homoeopathy bottles filled with some chemical concoction under their lungies. A designated rig-vedic voter walks out of the polling booth, wiping his left forefinger on his hair smeared with – what else – coconut oil.  The one in lungi fishes out the homoeopathy bottle and dips the stalk of a breadfruit leaf in the liquid. The voter extends his finger to the comrade who does the honour. The voter is soon transported to another booth, probably in another ward or another constituency, to exercise someone else’s franchise.  It may not be that easy this time, with the election commission introducing voter photographs on electoral rolls, but ‘vedic’ experts say they have done their homework well.

This is one game I don’t wish the best player wins.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s