Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jayalalithaa swarms voters with freebies

Tiruchirappalli (TN), March 24, 2011

Taking the war of freebies to a new high, AIADMK manifesto for April 13 Assembly elections on Thursday promised 20 kg of free rice for ration-card holders, laptops for students from classes XI, free fans, mixers and grinders to all and mineral water to BPL families.

Seeking to match her bête noir DMK president M. Karunanidhi, AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa showered freebies in the manifesto, which she released here after filing her nomination from temple town of Srirangam, moving away from the rural Andipatti constituency.

In a bid to woo women voters, Ms. Jayalalithaa promised four gms of gold for 'Thali' (mangalsutra) free of cost to poor, besides cable TV connections at subsidised rates.

The freebies promised by AIADMK marks a U-turn from Ms. Jayalalithaa's opposition to such populist schemes announced by the DMK in 2006 elections, which was perceived to have tilted the balance in its favour.

Apparently targeting the Maran brothers who hold a near monopoly over the cable TV distribution across the state, she also promised nationalisation of multi-system operators.

Sumangali Cable Vision, owned by the Sun Network of media baron Kalanidhi Maran and his brother and Union Minister Dayananidhi Maran, grand nephews of Mr. Karunanidhi, presently commands a virtual stranglehold over the cable TV business.

AIADMK if voted to power would provide free bus passes to all citizens aged over 58, a sugarcane procurement price of Rs 2,500 a tonne, a restructured health insurance scheme for all and a special scheme for the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, now lodged in camps across the state, she said.

Four sets of uniform and footwear for students, 20 litres of mineral water a day to Below Poverty Line families, six months' maternity leave for women and Rs 12,000 as pregnancy allowance have also been promised.

The party assured assistance ranging from Rs 1000-Rs 5000 for students from class X onwards in government and private schools, with a view to bring down the school drop-out rate.

Old aged persons abandoned by their wards would be lodged in homes and provided three meals a day, free medical aid and library facilities, according to the manifesto.

The AIADMK manifesto has not only tried to take a leaf from the DMK manifesto about several major schemes, but also sought to go beyond them in some areas.

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