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An enemy’s enemy is a friend

BJP never had a strong base in Tamil Nadu. Thus, the Dravidian parties ignored BJP. They were largely content training their guns against each other.

In 2014 things are different. Rajnath Singh and Narendra Modi have labored hard to build partners in different states. In this the BJP seems to have succeeded over the Congress. For the first time the BJP managed to knit an alliance of other regional parties– MDMK, PMK, DMDK- all opposed to both the DMK and the AIADMK. Thus, for the first time, the two major Dravidian parties face the threat of another competitor to their unbroken record of dominance since 1967.

This explains the intensity of criticism on the part of Modi of lack of development thrust in the state under the DMK and AIADMK regimes. Understandably, DMK’s M K Stalin and AIADMK’s J Jayalalithaa are not amused and have opted to hit back. Stalin held Modi’s claim of Gujarat’s development model as a myth. Jayalalithaa listed the several social indices like poverty, infant mortality, maternal mortality, hygiene and sanitation and school dropout rates in Tamil Nadu as being lower than those in Gujarat. The focus of the Dravidian parties in distributing freebies like colour television sets, electricity for farming, mixers, grinders, fans, laptops, LPG stoves and easier LPG connections, free rice and now the Amma canteens have benefited large sections of poor. Understandably, these have also helped create large vote banks.

But, on the development side, Gujarat seems well ahead of Tamil Nadu. The focus on constructing hundreds of check dams, the linking of rivers in the state, the Jyoti Gram Yojana that provides uninterrupted power to villages, the focus on cotton and groundnut cultivation that have helped the state emerge a major producer of these commodities, as also contributing to a double digit growth in agriculture, the effective use of natural gas and the development of several minor ports, the visible development of infrastructure, notably power make the Gujarat experiment a more sustainable one.

The strident anti-Centre stance of Tamil Nadu, opposing the several major moves of the Centre has retarded development. There are several glaring examples like the non-action over the agitation against Koodankulam nuclear power plant for a year; the stoppage of construction of gas pipelines that would provide gas to several western districts; the stoppage of work on the elevated highway

facilitating movement between the two major ports of Chennai and Ennore; the neglect of the port, ship building and engineering facilities at Kattupalli over which an investment of Rs 4000 crore has been made and the neglect of power development with meagre investments made during 1992-2007 that have landed the state in severe power crisis are in stark contrast to the development focus of Gujarat. Modi goes more than half way to attract investments and ensure these are off the ground in quick time. Example: the Tata Nano car project. The contrast is provided in Tatas abandoning a Rs 3000 crore titanium project at Tuticorin after an eight year struggle to take it off the ground.

Historically, Tamil Nadu has been well ahead in terms of education and public health. The Dravidian parties have continued with this focus. Still, the quality of education, especially at the primary and middle school levels, continues to be poor. One has to look at the reports by Pratham on the inability of Class V students to do maths problems of Class II.

Gujarat has been a late starter in its focus on social development. But with increased prosperity, with agriculture recording double-digit growth and rural incomes increasing, the trickle-down effect should help.

 

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