There has been a rapid growth of Covid-19 cases in Tamil Nadu and the Opposition parties led by the DMK blame the AIADMK government in the state for its failure to act on time to curb the spread of the pandemic. In an interview with The Daily Guardian, DMK MLA and IT wing head Palanivel Thiaga Rajan talks on the prevailing situation in the country, especially Tamil Nadu. Excerpts:
Q: Covid-19 has crippled everyone. How do you think the Tamil Nadu government has handled the crisis in the state?
A: I’m an Opposition party member and it’s my job to tell the government how to do things better. I have three basic concerns about the way this government has acted. First, the tardiness in starting measures as the government didn’t understand the extent of the crisis, didn’t listen to others, and didn’t adopt best practices. Either you should be smart enough to have your own advisors or watch what Kerala is doing. Second, the state government failed to look past traditional politics. We called for an all-party meeting so that we could come together and co-operate during this pandemic. The AIADMK government refused.
Q: The DMK has also criticised the Centre’s stimulus package, saying it didn’t address the real issues facing the poor?
A: Even before we got into the crisis, the economy was in its worst shape in decades. In my lifetime, this is the worst economy that I have seen. In a growing company, you should witness the ‘supply’ problem but for the first time there was a ‘demand’ problem. An unprecedented situation has hit the poorest and least stable groups like migrant labourers. What’s worrying is that the Centre’s response seems muddled. First, it couldn’t make a distinction between fiscal and monetary policy. In most countries, the government sticks to fiscal policy and the central bank looks after the fiscal policy. This separation is good in a democracy. The Centre gave a spurious number of Rs 20 lakh crore and is showing tens of thousands of crores daily. The stage 1 and stage 2 are the actual spending by the government and the rest are liquidity, backstop, loans, etc. These measures have to go through banking and should’ve been made by the Reserve Bank of India. We are in a situation where neither we can separate the fiscal and monetary policy, nor do we believe that the stimulus is going to help the people who need it the most.
Q: Regarding the migrant crisis, there seems to be no proper planning and most measures seem ad-hoc. Your take.
A: If you had announced a lockdown that was going to take place in a few days at the national level or in Tamil Nadu, the government could have made arrangements (special buses, trains) to get these people back. The lack of planning is costing us and is getting compounded exponentially with every lockdown extension. I worry about the economic revival because if you lift the lockdown and you don’t have labourers and don’t keep the places running, how are you going to get the economy up? The migrant labourers are feeling betrayed by their experiences, the way they were left on their own.
Q. When E. Palaniswami was made CM after J. Jayalalithaa’s demise, the DMK said the AIADMK government would not last. But the AIADMK has nearly completed its tenure and the perception is that the party seems to have stabilised. And if the manages to handle this crisis well, it’ll work in their favour. Don’t you think it’s going to be a tough battle for the DMK in the 2021 elections?
A: The DMK will come to power. People are very angry. They were angry in May 2019 which is why we saw the biggest sweep since 1996. We saw a 22.3% margin victory for us. Of course, we lost some by-elections, but I have supreme confidence in the next elections.