The Tamil Nadu government’s performance under the intense pressure of a total lockdown and a raging pandemic deserves commendation, especially considering that the ruling party was perceived to be driven by ‘inexperienced’ leaders who can attribute their elevation to the top post of running the state as purely circumstantial.
While there is no way to find out how the state would have fared if a deft J Jayalalithaa or a vastly experienced M Karunanidhi had been in power during this period, one can certainly see that Edappadi K Palaniswami and his team have managed to do better than their counterparts across the country.
Tamil Nadu was among the first states to suffer rapid spread of the virus with cluster after cluster opening across the state during the early months of the pandemic. While Maharashtra topped the charts, TN was a close second and struggled to bring the situation under control even as neighbouring Kerala won accolades for its adept management of the pandemic. Opposition parties, and the public, squarely blamed EPS and his team for TN’s failure in getting a grip on the virus. Ten months after the total lockdown began, the state capital had an opportunity to heave a minor sigh of relief. For the first time in the said period, Chennai reported zero fatalities from COVID-19, on Monday morning. With as many as 4,085 people succumbing to the virus in the city, so far, the development was certainly viewed with optimism of a flattening curve.
The state now stands at a comfortable ninth position in the number of active cases with just a little over 5000 active cases across the state when compared to Kerala with 68,990 active cases and Maharashtra, which is still struggling with over 52,000 active cases.
Even states like Karnataka and Gujarat with lesser populations and a smaller working force, have more active cases and are grappling with the situation.
While hospitals ran out of beds and even adequate oxygen supply even in some of the most advanced nations hit by the pandemic, the state government’s rapid efforts in converting schools, colleges and even locomotives as makeshift COVID centres ensured that TN had very few cases of patients dying due to lack of beds and oxygen. Such horror stories were seen more in private facilities than government centres. Now with over 10 lakh doses of the vaccine in their kitty, it may finally be safe to assume that a second wave of COVID-19 is unlikely.
One of the biggest challenges even developed countries are now facing is generating employment for the lakhs of people who lost their jobs during the pandemic. However, amid all the chaos, the TN government has successfully led the country in attracting investments to the state managing to grab 16% of the total investments flowing into India during the first half of Fiscal Year 2021, according to CARE ratings, even as a declining trend was witnessed nationwide in attracting investments. The state also signed at least 80 MoUs for investment to the tune of Rs. 66,000 cr, that could create over one lakh new jobs.
While 10 years of anti-incumbency, infighting among party heavyweights and return of VK Sasikala, are all going to play a significant role in the coming polls, the state’s handling of the corona crisis and bucking the national trend in attracting investments are unlikely to be ignored by the voter. However, the final test still lies in the state’s handling of vaccine politics, and to that end, the next few months are crucial before the ruling party can see the green shoots of health and economic recovery translating into ‘two leaves.’