Rs 2/kg rice largely credited for DMK-led alliance's victory

Our Bureau

"It was up to the State to find the resources and if it did manage to find the resource, then the scheme would be feasible."

Chennai, May 11

If it was the promise of a measure of rice for Re 1 that saw the DMK dethrone the Congress in the State and come to power in 1967, a similar promise a kg of rice for Rs 2 is largely credited as being the reason for the DMK-led alliance coming to power this time.

In the 1967 elections, the DMK under C.N. Annadurai promised "one

padi

" (about 1.5 kg) of rice for Re 1, a promise that caught the fancy of the voters. The DMK got 138 seats in the Assembly and since then either the DMK or the AIADMK, formed by M.G. Ramachandran after he broke away from the DMK, have been in power. The Congress (I) has been in alliance with one party or the other for most of the elections since 1971.

Promises to keep

Apart from the offer of rice at Rs 2 a kg, the DMK's manifesto this time has more such promises - a colour television set for those poor families without one at home, two acres of wasteland for the landless and a resumption of the wedding assistance scheme for the poor, which the DMK had introduced earlier and one that the AIADMK under Ms Jayalalithaa discontinued. As the Union Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, described, the DMK's election manifesto was the hero of the campaign.

A known reformer, Mr Chidambaram even defended the DMK's promise stating that each political party was entitled to put out its own manifesto and either include or not include a promise.

In an interaction with journalists here recently, Mr Chidambaram said, "I am not going to sit on judgment over the desirability or otherwise of extending a concession. That is a judgment which the people have to make."

Feasible scheme

Mr Chidambaram clarified that on an earlier occasion he was asked if the scheme was feasible, to which he had replied it was up to the State to find the resources and if it did manage to find the resource, then the scheme would be feasible. He pointed out that the Centre was covering 2.5 crore families under a Central Government scheme by giving rice at Rs 3 a kg.

The DMK manifesto sought to take this forward and offer it now at Rs 2 a kg.

Further, the Centre provides rice to the public distribution scheme at Rs 5.65 a kg, which the States sell at Rs 3.50 a kg. The DMK promises to absorb another Rs 1.50 a kg.

Mr Chidambaram said, "it will require that the State either find new resources or reallocate current resources. But to say it is not feasible, I can't see the logic of that."

It is for the government to decide how it will allocate its resources and the people to judge that promise, according to him.

Initially, the AIADMK leader, Ms Jayalalithaa, questioned the feasibility of the scheme, but later announced that she would, if voted back, give 10 kg of rice free if the card holders bought 10 kg at Rs 3.50 a kg - which worked out to Rs 1.75 a kg. With this, her initial opposition to the scheme lost credibility.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 12, 2006)
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