The ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) released its election manifesto on Sunday to seek a third consecutive term in Tamil Nadu’s April 6 assembly elections by promising free washing machines, offering dual citizenship to Sri Lankan refugees and pledging free housing to people.
The AIADMK, an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said it would urge the Centre to scrap the Citizenship Amendment Act and work to bring education to the state list from the concurrent list of the Constitution.
While the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has vowed to abolish the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), the AIADMK has offered providing training to students appearing for competitive exams such as NEET, UPSC and JEE. NEET is an emotional issue in the state as several students have died by suicide either because they failed to clear the exam or they feared they couldn’t realise their aspirations of studying medicine.
The AIADMK manifesto, coming a day after the DMK released its poll promises, bore several similarities. Both parties have tried to appeal to youngsters, women and the Tamil sentiment. They have promised waiving education loans, providing milk for school students and making Tamil a compulsory language.
Increase in maternity leave for women government employees from nine months to one year and construction of new buildings with modern medical facilities for about 2,000 Amma Mini Clinics also found mention in the AIADMK manifesto.
To those who don’t own houses, the government has promised building and providing houses free of cost in rural and urban areas under the ‘Amma Illam Thittam’ (Amma Housing Scheme) and interest on housing loans availed from cooperative housing societies would be waived on loan repayment.
It also said that ₹1,500 per month would be disbursed to all ration card holders and the amount would be credited to bank accounts of woman family heads, senior AIADMK leader C Ponnaiyan said.
While the DMK retained its 2016 assembly poll promise of free tablets with internet for students, the AIADMK has promised 2G data to students. The AIADMK has also promised to lower fuel prices.
While the DMK promised to enact a law to reserve 75% jobs for Tamils in the public sector and pursue it in the private sector, the AIADMK also promised a government job for every family that doesn’t have one person employed in the public sector. The manifesto reiterated that reservation in public education and jobs will be allotted based on the report of the caste-based census.
Keeping the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils alive, the AIADMK manifesto promised steps to ensure dual citizenship and voting rights for Sri Lankan Tamil refugees.
“Both manifestos are meant to attract voters which they have but compared to the DMK’s manifesto, the AIADMK has more sops,” said J Jeyaranjan, who researches political economy of Tamil Nadu.
After releasing the manifesto at the AIADMK headquarters in Chennai, chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami said the party has ensured protection for farmers and students through loan waivers even before the election.
The DMK’s key campaign against the incumbent has been a charge that the ruling government didn’t protect rural students who were at a disadvantage competing at a common national test. Chief minister Palaniswami introduced a 7.5% horizontal reservation in medical colleges for government students who clear NEET.
While the DMK swept the 2011 polls when late M Karunanidhi promised free colour television sets for all, the AIADMK has this year promised free cable connection provided by the state Arasu Corporation.