From comprehensively trumping her opponents in the 2011 Assembly polls and taking the reins of Tamil Nadu for the third time to being convicted in the disproportionate assets case by a special court, AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa has had a roller-coaster ride over the last 5 years.
On February 19, 2013, the Centre notified the final award of Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) on the directions of the Supreme Court. Hours after the notification, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa termed it as a “tremendous achievement” of her government. It was after 22 long years of legal battle, the State had got justice, she said. It was the happiest day of her life and the happiest day for the farmers in Tamil Nadu, she added recalling her famous fast-unto-death at Marina beach. However, the Centre is yet to set up Cauvery Management Board or a regulatory authority for which she has been fighting since then.
The Supreme Court allowed Tamil Nadu to increase the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam in May 2014. It was touted as a major victory for Tamil Nadu and the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa when the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional the law passed by Kerala in 2006, constituting the Dam Safety Authority to prevent the State from raising the water level in the Mulla Periyar Dam from 136 to 142 feet. As it benefits many southern districts where the waters from the dam are critical for farming and drinking water purposes, the AIADMK celebrated it as its own victory.
As promised, the Jayalalithaa government rolled out a slew of welfare schemes like free laptops for students, free mixies, grinders and fans for women and so on. But nothing has been as successful as the Amma Unavagams (canteens) catering to the urban poor. While one idli costs Rs 1, a plate of Pongal costs Rs 5 and variety rice for lunch also comes at Rs 5 per plate. Now, it is being looked upon as a model the country. It also led to the building of the Amma brand.
In 2010, power cuts were rampant and villages in the State were experiencing load shedding for up to 12 hours. It was one of the reasons for the fall of the DMK government. Over the past five years, the power situation has improved a lot with people not having to sweat it out even during the summer. Some credit though should be given to Karunanidhi for he was the one who began work on power projects which were expedited and commissioned in the subsequent AIADMK regime. The government also has given a strong push to solar energy with a tinge of controversy over pricing to begin with.
One of the highpoints of the AIADMK rule was the Global Investors Meet held in September 2015 after being postponed twice for Jayalalithaa to be Chief Minister again. At the end of the two day even, TN attracted Rs 2.42 lakh crore in investments. With the manufacturing sector sluggish across the nation, it could take some years for the investments to come through but still the State was able to make a case for itself as a pioneer in industrial development.
O. Panneerselvam, took over as the Chief Minister, for a second time, almost under similar circumstances, in September 2014 after Jayalalithaa was convicted by a trial court in disproportionate assets case. Till she became Chief Minister again in May 2015, the popular perception was that the administration came to a standstill and governance took a backseat as it was only a caretaker government. OPS was chosen over others as he was seen as the most loyal. Not anymore.
The historic and unprecedented November-December rains tarnished the image of the ruling government. Initially, the government was blamed for not regulating the water flow from the Chembarambakkam reservoir properly and then the ruling party came under heavy criticism for pasting Jayalalithaa’s pictures even on relief materials donated by volunteers and service organisations. Even though the government took up relief and restoration work in full swing post-floods, it earned a bad name in not handling the floods effectively.
The death of anti-liquor crusader Sasi Perumal in July 2015 led to a massive outburst against the government running liquor trade in the State. Parties also joined in demanding total prohibition either immediately or in a phased manner. The AIADMK government, however, has resolutely and repeatedly defended liquor sale and rejecting the demand for total prohibition as it was not a financially viable option. The DMK, though, is banking on it by promising that the first signature, if it assumes power, would be for prohibition.
Corruption in high places
While corruption exists in some form or other in every government, the suicide of Muthukumarasamy, an agricultural engineer in Tirunelveli, shocked the State. After reports that he had received calls from a “highly influential person” asking him to consider a new list of candidates for appointment, led to the sacking of Agriculture Minister Agri S.S. Krishnamoorthy from the cabinet who was subsequently arrested. As the Ministers were found to be wanting on several occasions, Jayalalithaa continued to shuffle the cabinet till the end.
Dalits under attack
Three high-profile deaths of Dalits on account of their marriage or love affair with girls belonging to dominant intermediary communities would remain a sore point of the outgoing government. The audacity with which Kongu youth outfit leader Yuvaraj remained underground after allegedly murdering Dalit graduate Gokulraj, had also drawn criticism. The burning down of homes of Dalits in Sethusamudram in Villupuram too would remain in memory for some more years.