In his bypoll campaign here, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin on Saturday said that an announcement on the proposed date of launch of Rs 1,000 monthly assistance scheme for women heads of families would be made in the Budget to be presented next month in the Assembly.
The hectic campaign by parties that stretched over a month for the February 27 Erode (East) bypoll ended at 6 PM and Stalin and AIADMK top leader K Palaniswami addressed people at a string of locations here seeking their votes.
A day after Palaniswami targeted the ruling DMK over the so far unfulfilled promise of monthly assistance to women, Stalin said the date from which the assistance scheme would be implemented shall be made known in the Budget.
The main opposition AIADMK swiftly flagged Stalin's announcement as a violation of the model code of conduct and wrote to the Returning Officer seeking appropriate action.
In his subsequent address at another neighbourhood, Stalin said there was no violation of any rule. "You went to the people and campaigned and demanded to know about the scheme's implementation. We have answered you," he said.
The assistance plan would have been rolled out long ago if the AIADMK regime had not emptied the State government coffers, he added.
This first bypoll in Tamil Nadu after the DMK assumed power in 2021 would see a direct fight between EVKS Elangovan, Congress candidate fielded on behalf of the DMK-led Secular Progressive Alliance and the main opposition AIADMK's former legislator, K S Thennarasu. Naam Tamilar Katchi's Meneka Navaneethan is among the total 77 candidates in the poll fray.
Hitting the campaign trail for the bypoll on the last day of canvassing votes, Stalin, also the president of DMK appealed to the voters to give Elangovan such a great victory that would mean Thennarasu losing his deposit.
He asserted that getting exemption to Tamil Nadu from the ambit of National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) is his goal. All efforts are being made to achieve it, he said and hit out at Governor R N Ravi and the Centre for not bothering about State Bills adopted twice in the Assembly to ensure it.
He said his party never failed to execute its promises. Assurances --to the extent of 85 per cent-- given to the electorate ahead of the 2021 Assembly election has been fulfilled. In the past about two years, more than what is possible has been implemented.
This has been done despite financial constraints since the previous AIADMK regime has left the 'coffers empty,' engaged in 'plunder,' and has also passed on debt burden, he said.
The Chief Minister said the remaining assurances would be honoured by the end of this year. He gave an extensive account of developmental initiatives and welfare schemes that have been implemented and it includes fare-free travel scheme for women in State-run buses and free breakfast to students in government schools.
He urged voters to consider the bypoll as an opportunity to evaluate the excellent work and good governance of his nearly two-year old party-led regime.
The DMK chief said the AIADMK leaders hid from public even the health status of late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa when she was battling for her life in a hospital in 2016. Former Chief Minister O Pannerselvam had even carried out a 'Dharma Yudham.' It was only the AIADMK leaders who had claimed that there was 'mystery' in Jayalalithaa's death. Only after the DMK assumed power, the status of inquiry by a panel over her death was made known to the people.
When the AIADMK was in power for a decade it did not fulfill promises. "You had said you will provide mobile phones. Did you do that? he asked. In some places, Stalin walked across to voters and sought support for Elangovan.
Palaniswami, in his campaign said the DMK had promised to get Tamil Nadu exempted from NEET's purview as soon as it assumed power. However, it has not been done. He urged the people to 'punish' them in the bypoll as they had uttered lie and deceived them.
On Stalin's announcement on Rs 1,000 assistance, he said the Chief Minister owed women Rs 22,000 each. The DMK is in power for the past 22 months and Rs 1,000 per month assistance now meant an accrual of Rs 22,000. He wondered if what was not done in the past 22 months would be implemented now.
The AIADMK campaign witnessed screening of Stalin's public addresses on several issues when he was in the opposition. Referring to one of them, Palaniswami said when the AIADMK regime provided Rs 2,500 to people as assistance for the Pongal festival, Stalin had demanded Rs 5,000.
However, after assuming power the DMK regime only provided Rs 1,000 for the harvest festival after the AIADMK took up the issue. The DMK took a particular stand when it was in the opposition and changed tack after capturing power, he said and listed several issues like electricity tariff increase to corner the ruling party.
Slamming the government over 'deterioration' in law and order front, the former Chief Minister said people had 'no safety' and urged voters to teach a fitting lesson in the bypoll to the ruling party.
Palaniswami claimed that DMK government was only inaugurating schemes that were launched during the AIADMK regime. He mocked at the government over a proposed Rs 80 crore 'pen' memorial project for late Chief Minister M Karuandnidhi inside the sea, off the shores of Marina in Chennai. Such a monument inside of the sea would impact ecology, he said.
Such a pen could not also be 'used for writing' and instead of doing that, pens may be gifted to students. A pen-model may be set up on the premises of Karunanidhi's memorial at the Marina beachfront or at DMK headquarters 'Anna Arivalayam,' to honour him, he said.
The counting of votes would be on March 2.
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First Published: Feb 25 2023 | 9:55 PM IST