The BJP held a protest across Tamil Nadu on Friday against the property tax hike by the state government. Chief Minister M K Stalin has said his DMK government was constrained to revise the property tax to ensure funds flow to civic bodies so the newly elected representatives can facilitate developmental activities.
Speaking to NDTV, BJP MLA Vanathi Srinivasan said, "On the one hand they talk about a new model for India and on the other hand they accept their failure". When asked why the BJP is protesting when the union government has been raising fuel price on a daily basis, she said, "Fuel is imported and price is fixed according to international price. Let Tamil Nadu say yes to bring fuel under GST, the price will come down".
For 62-year-old Vasan, a resident of Mylapore, an area classified as core Chennai, the state government's decison has come as a "huge blow". His sons had lost jobs amid the pandemic.
"Our livelihood has been lost over the last two years. Raising property tax now is a huge blow," said Vasan, who now stares at 75% hike in takes for his 1050 sq feet property.
However, around 10 lakh residents along the Chennai's IT corridor without piped water supply and underground drainage for 11 years now see hope with the latest revision of property tax rates.
"With this proportional increase of taxes, the government for the first time has recognised the difference in infrastructure available in core areas of Chennai and the newly added areas after 2010," Harsha Koda, Co-Founder, Federation of OMR resident associations (FOMRRA) said.
About 83 percent of the households in the urban areas will see a tax hike of 25- 50 percent. The state government claims that compared to other metros in the country, the tax slab proposed for Chennai is the lowest. Of the 11.03 lakh houses in the Chennai Corporation area, 25 percent increase has been proposed for 1.52 lakh houses, while 3.46 lakh and 3.12 lakh houses will have an increase by 50 and 75 percent, respectively.
The new tax slabs will come into effect from the first quarter of 2022 - 23.
The state government says the tax revision was inevitable as there was no revision for 14 years. Also with no elected representatives for one full five year term, a lot of development works remain accumulated and there is no adequate funds with local bodies to provide the basic infrastructure people expect.
The government also claims the union government too had made tax revision mandatory for grants to local bodies.
"The revision was not done wholeheartedly. My appeal to all, beyond political affliations is that please support the government's decision for development of local bodies AND overall growth of the state. Let there be no politics in this," MK Stalin appealed to opposition members in the assembly.
The DMK government's announcement comes after it swept the local body polls. The Lok Sabha elections are only due in 2024.
Under pressure to deliver it's poll promises including the Rs 3,000 monthly allowance for women heads of families, the ruling DMK is shifting gears from populism to reforms, putting the public under hardship.
This is the second such statewide protest in two months BY THE BJP.
The BJP, which has a marginal presence in the state, sees this as an opportunity to further expand its footprint in the Dravidian heartland. With former IPS officer Annamalai HEADING the state unit, the national party won four seats in assembly elections last year and further improved it's tally in local body polls with more than 300 councillors out of around 13,000 seats.
DR A Suryanarayan, a BJP worker is hopeful.
"In 2024 BJP will win atleast 10 seats and in 2026 we will capture power in Tamil Nadu," he said.