- List includes the Mixer-Grinder, Fan Scheme - worth almost Rs 9,000 crore
- Total value of the freebies is a whopping Rs 21,650 crores
- A former election commissioner has called these handouts indirect bribery
Can J Jayalalithaa break that jinx?
She appears confident despite a stint in jail in this term, fighting alone and remaining aloof. From her rallies, it is clear she is hoping to win again on the back of freebies - election handouts and subsidies perhaps more than any that the state has seen in its competitive history of populism.
To give you an idea of the scale of the Amma's largesse, we assembled almost every handout she's given in her five years under one tree.
The list is long, starting off with the famous free Mixer-Grinder and Fan Scheme - worth almost Rs 9,000 crore and free laptops to students - another about 4100 crores. She gave away dhotis and darees, together for nearly Rs 1500 crore, school kits for 3000 crores and marriage assistance in cash for over Rs 2537 crore. It goes on: Gold coins - 786 crores, Baby kits, Rs 50 crore.
A new scheme of free mobile phones to self-help groups comes to 15 crores. There's a scheme for giving free cycles, for 289 crores and a scheme for free goats and cows, which comes to a total of 786 crores. All of this brings the value of the freebies to a whopping Rs 21,650 crores.
And this doesn't even Include how much the state has to pay for a number of Amma-branded subsidised schemes like the popular Amma canteens, Amma water, Amma salt, Amma Dal, Amma cement, Amma seeds and Amma Pharmacies.
Apart from raising ethical questions - one former election commissoner has called these rampant handouts indirect bribery - it also strains Tamil Nadu's finances. The state's debt has jumped 80 per cent in the last five years. And, it has gone from a revenue surplus to a revenue deficit state leaving little money to bankroll these schemes.
The DMK's manifesto also promises loan waiver to students and farmers, free wifi and a free meal a day.
Tamil Nadu earned about Rs 1.16 lakh crore in taxes last year. Nearly a third of that - about Rs 30,000 crore - comes from the sale of alcohol from government-owned shops. But both Dravidian parties have also promised prohibition, if they come back to power.
That however hasn't prevented them from making ever more extravagant offers , or promises to enhance existing handouts.
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