Is the joke on Tamil Nadu?

Funny but sadly true As AIADMKs EPS and OPS fight Tamil Nadu runs on UPS
news Politics Thursday, April 27, 2017 - 17:52


It’s a joke that has launched a thousand memes. But sadly for the state of Tamil Nadu, the joke’s on us. No one’s laughing when several parts of north Chennai suffer a blackout in the dead of the night.

On Wednesday, Vallur power station in North Chennai cut 1000MW of power supply to Tamil Nadu’s power utility, TANGEDCO, owing to the non-payment of dues amounting to Rs 1156 crore, according to sources. Although officials claim they will still be able to meet the state’s growing power demand, residents belonging to neighbourhoods such as Teynampet, Nandanam, Mylapore, Nungambakkam, among others witnessed a power cut at midnight on Wednesday.

As the political drama within the ruling AIADMK plays out, has governance in Tamil Nadu taken a backseat for Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami?  

Suspended Animation

For ten days, the ruling faction of the AIADMK has been in a state of suspended animation. The FIR against its Deputy General Secretary TTV Dhinakaran followed by his arrest has left the ruling party in disarray. The protracted merger of the two warring factions has occupied the time and energies of the Cabinet Ministers.

In EPS’ 31-member Cabinet, six of his top Ministers are part of the committee that will hold talks with former Chief Minister O Panneerselvam’s faction. Led by Rajya Sabha MP R Vaithilingam, the committee includes Finance Minister D Jayakumar, Law Minister CVe Shanmugam, Electricity Minister P Thangamani, Forest Minister Dindigul Sreenivasan, School Education Minister KA Sengottiyan, and Municipal Administration and Rural Development Minister SP Velumani.  

While EPS may have chosen to sit out of the committee, the CM has been preoccupied with the battle before the Election Commission. For three days, beginning Tuesday, Palaniswami has been meeting with district secretaries of the party at the AIADMK headquarters in Chennai. Led by EPS, the ruling faction has been working towards getting affidavits from party functionaries endorsing VK Sasikala’s appointment as General Secretary, reported TOI.

The opposition led by arch-rival the DMK has already begun raising questions over the functioning of the government. Last week, DMK Working President MK Stalin demanded an emergency Assembly session be convened, stating that the state government had fallen into a coma. Calling on Speaker P Dhanapal on April 19, Stalin demanded that the House be convened to discuss the Demand for Grants of various departments.

“It’s been a month since the Budget was presented but the Demand for Grants has not been discussed. Only then can money be disbursed to various departments and to subsidiary projects. There are so many issues – drought, NEET, water scarcity – but the government isn’t bothered,” said A Saravanan, DMK spokesperson.

He added that the state bureaucracy that was on autopilot mode when late CM Jayalalithaa was alive is now stumbling. “No one is controlling the government now. When there is no figurehead, everything will go down the drain. But the problem is that it is now directly affecting the people, as seen by the power cuts in Chennai because of the Vallur power station issue,” Saravanan argued.  

Jayalalithaa to blame?

Slamming the ruling party, retired IAS officer MG Devasahayam said, “It’s not paralysis. Tamil Nadu is in a state of atrophy. It is dead and non-functional.”

He, however, pins the blame upon late CM Jayalalithaa, who was the face of the party and the government. “Blaming the present Ministers at this point of time is a futile exercise. This is largely due to Jayalalithaa and the way she ran her party and government. Tamil Nadu is paying for her autocratic ways,” he hit out.  

Devasahayam pointed out that bureaucrats have their limitations and cannot take decisions given that they are not elected leaders. Citing the example of the disastrous thermocol experiment, he said the embarrassing episode pointed to the calibre of the officials and the Ministers.  

Speaking to TNM on the condition of anonymity, one IAS officer, however, denied that the wheels of administration had come to a grinding halt. “This is the beauty of Indian bureaucracy. If you ask me, in most aspects, government is running much better than it used to,” he said.

The bureaucrat said, “Files come back approved very fast. Officers don't waste time endlessly for the CM presentation to start. The Chief Secretary gives clear directions.” He, however, noted, “There are some major policy issues that may be stuck but 99% of governance is always routine.”

Explaining the level of bureaucratic efficiency, the officer even went so far as to cheekily say he hoped this instability continues.

But as retired IAS officer Devasahayam points out, a government run by bureaucrats is not democracy. “That is not the way administration functions. The hallmark of a leader is how things function after he/she leaves,” he concludes, indicting Jayalalithaa for Tamil Nadu being run, not by EPS or OPS but by UPS.


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