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Editorial: A double-edged sword for the ruling party

The present battle against the coronavirus crisis is like a double-edged sword for Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and his government. If used appropriately, it could be the catalyst for the triumphant return of his party to Fort St George next year.

Editorial: A double-edged sword for the ruling party
Fort St George


On the other hand, even the slightest misstep could herald a colossal drubbing for the AIADMK, come the 2021 elections.

Palaniswami has a compelling track record of having overcome challenges of different kinds; first winning the confidence of the party MLAs, then becoming the Chief Minister, followed by forming the government, amidst several twists and turns and finally winning the floor test in the Assembly. However, this time EPS is pitted against a formidable foe, and an invisible one at that. While the ‘mini-Assembly’ polls to 22 seats last year demonstrated Palaniswami’s influential rise among the masses, the mandate projected him as a capable leader of the party and the state. The CM’s master-stroke, a choice even his predecessors had foregone, was the declaration of eight delta districts as protected agricultural zones. This historic decision boosted EPS’ image several notches – he was now the friend of the farmers.

Backed by this populace, a confident Palaniswami was prepped up for the 2021 electoral battle. But the coronavirus has thrown him a googly. Though his administration managed to contain the virus’ spread in several districts of the State, the litmus test will be his success in flattening Chennai’s corona curve. COVID-19 has taken a toll not just on public health, but has crippled the livelihoods of millions. At this juncture, EPS must employ a series of citizen-centric economic reforms on a war footing to avoid downsizing by factories and companies. As a future expectation, there is a clear-cut mandate for creating new job opportunities to help lakhs of families tide over the corona onslaught.

Although the State has initiated a few measures such as doling out monetary assistance to help MSMEs and the agriculture sector, there is ample room for improvement in the job space – especially considering thousands are beginning to return to Tamil Nadu, having been rendered jobless from other states and countries. Increased allocation towards the MGNREGS would be a good sector to start. Besides wooing investments from global mega-corporations who might now be eyeing destinations other than those in China, the Tamil Nadu government through some of its industrial financing arms such as the TIIC and TIDCO, should extend additional support to local MSMEs – helping them to stay afloat and retain their staffers. Goodwill gestures such as a six-month-long tax holiday to companies hit severely by the pandemic could instil a sense of confidence in the industry. However, the one gesture that would boost the most confidence in both the people and the industry would be to lead from the front, to address people with full disclosure on the pandemic and economic situation. A false sense of security on any aspect at this stage would be fatal.

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