In the peak of election season, people in Tamil Nadu received two back to back gift hampers from the AIADMK government after Chief Minister E Palaniswami - popularly known as EPS - announced Rs 2000 each for 60 lakh families in the state. In his speech, today on the floor of the House, EPS listed the beneficiaries, including fishermen, weavers, potters, artisans and those in firecracker, leather and construction industries.
"This is a special monetary assistance. We have taken into account the hardships poor people are facing, most of whom, have been hit by drought and cyclone Gaja," EPS told NDTV.
The cash benefit would cost the government Rs 1200 crore at a time when the state already has Rs 44,000 crore fiscal deficit and an outstanding debt of Rs 3.97 lakh crore.
Earlier in January, the state government had announced Pongal gift of Rs 1000 each for two crore family card holders at a cost of Rs 2000 crore. However, the Madras High Court had directed the Tamil Nadu government to restrict this only to families below the poverty line.
Responding to the announcement, an AIADMK lawmaker told the house, "The 1000-rupees Pongal gift was the first sixer scored by the Chief Minister. This Rs 2000 assistance is the second one. We expect a hattrick."
Opposition DMK has called this "a bribe ahead of elections". DMK lawmaker, Palanivel Thiagarajan told NDTV, "It seems the cash benefit is out of concern but it's nothing but an official bribe for votes."
"Why didn't they add this in the budget presented on Friday. Gaja cyclone hit in November; why do it this way now, making the budget a nonsense," Mr Thiagarajan said.
The stakes are high for AIADMK as the upcoming Lok Sabha polls would be the first election for the party after the death of J Jayalalithaa. The party has also technically split under EPS and O Panneerselvam on one side and Sasikala and her nephew TTV Dhinakaran on the other.
There is intense speculation that the BJP is trying to forge an alliance with the AIADMK in a bid to expand its footprint in Tamil Nadu. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the then Chief Minister made it into a 'Modi vs Lady' (Jayalalithaa) battle, and won 37 of the 39 seats. The BJP alliance had won just 2 seats.
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