Chief Minister-elect MK Stalin has his task cut out. A raging COVID wave compelling another complete lockdown gives him no breathing time to even sort out his priorities from day one. Stalin’s immediate priority would be getting a task force in place to handle the pandemic situation better to at least control the damage.
To begin with, a competent and active MLA should be picked for the Health portfolio so that decision making would be decentralised and precious time saved, opine political observers. The candidate would also be expected to give a free hand to officials to avoid them looking to be remote-controlled from Fort St George for maintaining a war room for the supply of oxygen or life-saving drugs. In the same breath, he should pay immediate attention to augmenting the vaccine supply, which could help reduce COVID load on the state hospitals in the weeks to come.
Should he go ahead with a complete lockdown at least in COVID hotspots, as was suggested by some experts, would be the critical question the debutant chief minister must give serious thought, considering the State’s finances, which has been bleeding left, right and centre for a few years now.
He would be forced to advance the implementation of his promise of distributing Rs 4,000 per family card as COVID relief in the likelihood of enforcing a complete lockdown even in parts. Distributing relief before lockdown would be imperative to make people suffer less. Stalin has promised to implement the relief distribution promise from his former party chief M Karunanidhi’s birth anniversary on June 3. Next on his priority list would be augmenting the revenue sources of the State and putting austerity measures in place to bridge the gap between deficit revenue and spiralling debt. Equally important would be allying the fears of farmers, industries and investors to deliver on his promise of protecting agriculture and generating jobs to keep the state’s economy mobile. Low on his agenda could be silencing critics who are paying close attention to his choice of ministers and their portfolios.
Political commentator K Ayyanathan says: “The daily caseload could increase to 25,000 cases shortly. He should give a free hand to the health minister and develop more temporary COVID centres to reduce the load on hospitals. He should not paralyse the livelihood of people by going for complete lockdown. Instead, the government should step up vigil through the police and keep the economy moving without posing health risks.
“Stalin should optimise the State’s revenue by tapping sources like sand mining. Private players are making a kill by purchasing it cheaply from the government and selling it for exorbitant prices. Government should sell it directly. He must allay farmers’ concerns by stopping schemes like hydrocarbon extraction as he promised. He should promote industries and investment without endangering the environment. He must also partner with other states and ensure that federalism and State’s rights are upheld.”