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State polls: How Tamil Nadu governance has steeply fallen from lofty levels of Kamaraj

By NS Venkataraman* 

Those living in Tamil Nadu in the age group of 65 plus , who have seen the type of quality governance that Kamaraj provided as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, now constantly regret that Tamil Nadu governance has steeply fallen in the last six decades from the lofty level to which Kamaraj raised it.
During the last sixty years or so, Tamil Nadu has been under the governance of DMK and AIADMK alternately, with gradual and steady decline in the conduct and commitment of the ruling party and Chief Minitser in particular.
There have been many negative and disturbing developments with increase in corruption amongst the politicians and government machinery at all levels, the rapid spread of liquor habit amongst the people, particularly the youth, threatening the safety of women and children and upsetting the economy of the poor families and caste ridden factions emerging all over the state.
Tamil chauvinism was taken to near absurd level with anti Hindi phobia and deliberate. Even chief ministers MG Ramachandran and Jayalalitha, who seemed to think in a different direction, could not stem the tide. Even Navodaya schools, in operation in all other states, were refused operation in Tamil Nadu. Reason: These schools teach Hindi to students.
With the large section of people feeling extremely dissatisfied about the behavior of politicians , with many criminals and corrupt people entering politics and becoming leader of one political party or the other, the credibility of the politicians in the view of the people is now extremely low. Political parties have realized that they cannot get the votes in the elections, unless they would offer freebies and bribe the people in the lower income group.
Now, with the ongoing election campaign, the offer of freebies by various political parties have reached absurd and alarming level, with one party offering washing machines , writing off education loan, some parties offering lumpsum amount of Rs 1,000 and more per month for housewives etc. 
 All this is happening even as the financial conditions of Tamil Nadu government are now at precarious level and has now exceeded the critical stage, with the present debt of the government being more than Rs 8 lakh crore, and Tamil Nadu having to pay several crore of rupees every year as interest and with no possibility of repaying the loan.
Many discerning observers wonder where the Tamil Nadu governance would go from here and whether the chaotic governance would even become more worse in the coming days.
It is generally said that election gives an opportunity to the citizens to change the poorly performing party to what they perceive to be the better one. Unfortunately, the people are left with no choice , as it appears to be a case of jumping from frying pan to fire.
Unfortunately, in Tamil Nadu, the national parties, who are supposed to have all India outlook, have lost their relevance and vote share . Many local parties based on caste and region have emerged , with no particular policy programmes but with the sole objective of getting the “gang leader” to become political leader and win elections.
In the process, totally unprincipled alignments are taking place between the political parties with each one bargaining for more seats in a particular front and jumping from one front to another, to increase their seat share in the election. In the process, the political parties are not concerned at all as to what the people think about their unprincipled strategies.
People are really confused, as the accusation between political parties is now similar to the pot calling the kettle black.
Acharya Kripalani, a patriot par excellence, was reported to have said , a few years after India became independent and after seeing the process of democracy shaping in India, that there is unlikely to be a political party of lofty standards to the desirable level in future. 
In such conditions, when people still have to exercise their franchise in the elections, the only option for the people would be to vote for the least corrupt and least chauvinistic party. This is how the people of Tamil Nadu are now looking at the forthcoming state election.
In the last 60 years or so, Tamil Nadu has been under the leadership of politicians who hailed from cinema world, with little formal education. Many thought, present chief minister Edappadi Palaswami who has no cinema background, an exception, would act differently.
Yet the fact is, under the Jayalalitha government, in which Palaniswamy served as minister for several years, was steeped in corruption and was virtually under the control of friend Sasikala who was jailed on corruption charge and her group. It would seem that Palaniswamy has successfully got his party AIADMK from association with Sasikala and her group. But one wonders as to up to what degree has it cleansed AIADMK. Despite apparent development activities, negative aspects such as widespread corruption and hate politics continue unabated.
In the forthcoming state election, people have unenviable choice to make. In all probability, whichever party that would win the election would do so by getting large share of negative votes rather than positive votes. The lofty standards to which Kamaraj raised the governance in Tamil Nadu has now gone for a toss. It appears that Tamil Nadu would not see the governance standards of Kamaraj in the foreseeable future.
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*Trustee, Nandini Voice for The Deprived, Chennai

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