People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 51

December 29,2002


18 Months of Jayalalitha’s Attacks on People

A A Nainar

THE 18-month rule of Jayalalitha has been marked by a series of grave attacks on the livelihood of the common man in Tamilnadu. The promises of providing relief to the people, which she had made in her party’s manifesto, still remain on paper without being implemented.

The decisions taken by the AIADMK government in the month of November 2001-- to increase the bus fares and electricity tariff, to impose higher taxation for edible oil, cotton hosiery goods and computer software, to hike the prices of essential commodities supplied through PDS etc -- fetched a revenue of Rs 4428 crore. This exercise was described by the opposition as the presentation of a mini-budget. All opposition parties, including the Congress and the DMK, participated in a statewide bandh protesting these measures on December 7, 2001. The CPI (M) and CPI gave the bandh call jointly and it was a big campaign against the government.


Jayalalitha, immediately after becoming the CM, made it public that her government would reduce the government jobs by 30 per cent from the number prevailing then. While announcing these measures, the chief secretary of the state had released a communiqué to the press saying that the new government wanted to commit itself to the central government and international financial agencies that reforms and restructuring programme would be implemented in the state in right earnest. The opportunist character of the AIADMK became evident once again with these moves of the government. It was the same party which had filed a suit in the Supreme Court against the WTO and was now embarking on a course dictated by the same agency after becoming the ruling party.

During the budget session of the state assembly, early this year, the Jayalalitha government announced a series of anti-people measures. Partially privatising the State Transport Corporation, handing over nearly 50 lakh acres of barren lands each to the corporate houses, diluting the existing Land Ceiling Act, privatising the state owned PSUs, re-defining the 'Below Poverty Line" criteria for issuance of the ration cards and gradually dismantling the PDS, discontinuing the procurement of agricultural produces etc were some of the measures announced by the Jayalalitha government.

Many members of the ruling party wanted to make use of the assembly debates to eulogise their 'Leader-Supreme", in the process wasting precious time of the House. All democratic minded parties, especially the Left, roundly condemned this degenerating trend.

To cap it all, her government enacted a draconian anti-worker Act banning strikes in all essential services, the list of which could be extended at will by the government authorities. The government, which had suppressed the transport workers movement during October 2001, anticipated resistance from the trade unions with renewed vigor. In order to contain this and the rising waves of protest by those who were affected by the policies of her government, Jayalalitha came out with such an anti-worker and anti-people oppressive measure.

In a calculated bid to move closer towards the BJP, Jayalalitha became an enthusiastic supporter of the black law – Prevention Of Terrorism Act (POTA), which was passed in the Parliament to curb “terrorist activities” in the country. POTA received the support of both the DMK and the AIADMK from the state along with the other constituents of NDA like MDMK and PMK. The left parties, together with the Congress and other democratic, secular opposition parties conducted a campaign against enactment of POTA and cautioned the people of the state about the likelihood of it being abused and misused against the political opponents of AIADMK. Later events proved their apprehension true.


During the first week of March this year, when the whole world was condemning the sangh parivar for its unprecedented State-sponsored genocide in Gujarat, Jayalalitha came out with a statement opposing the secular parties for 'not condemning the minority fundamentalism' the way in which she was doing. When the demand was made for the ouster of the Modi government, she did not support the secular parties in Parliament. Out of the 39 members of parliament from the state, only three belonging to the CPI(M) and TMC voted for Modi’s ouster while the rest, including the AIADMK voted for continuation of Modi as the chief minister.

Recently, in a move that even inspired the sangh parivar, the Jayalalitha government had enacted an Act against “forcible religious conversions”. The real intention of the government in bringing this Act was to divert  people’s attention from the real issues affecting the common man, and also to pamper to the communal forces for political gains.

This pampering is not new to Jayalalitha. During her earlier stint as chief minister of the state, she had revamped the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Board, and through it got the dilapidated and old temples renovated. She started schemes to give incentives for those who learn “Vedas and Agamas” for becoming priests in the Hindu temples. These were done purely for the purpose of gaining political mileage. Even this time she has started a free meal scheme (annadaana sevai) for the aged and the destitute through Hindu temples.

The government’s ban on conversions is nothing but a direct attack on the freedom of religion, which is granted under various articles of the Constitution. The dalits, minorities and  democratic minded people of the state are aggrieved by this law and expressed their protest. That Narendra Modi's poll manifesto promised to the people of Gujarat a similar law if elected to power, tells the kind of inspiration the communalists were able to draw from Jayalalitha.

Elected on the plank of secularism with an unmistaken anti-reform posturing, the AIADMK has thus betrayed the peoples' mandate and stabbed in the back of the very people who voted her to power


On the issue of Cauvery, the position taken by the Jayalalitha government reeked of highhanded chauvinism. Her refusal to attend the ‘Cauvery River Water Authority’ meeting and her subsequent passing of insinuating remarks against the Authority and the prime minister was condemned by the Supreme Court.

In Tamilnadu, she made a fervent plea to dismiss the S M Krishna government under Article 356 for his refusal to let water into Cauvery. She has also suggested the forcible taking over of the dams in Karnataka by the central government. Such positions, betrayed the scant respect she had for federal democracy and her failure to take a peaceful and balanced decision at times of distress that was affecting the people of both the states. This, however, does not mean that all that was done by her counterpart in Karnataka was right.

At a time when the Sri Lankan peace talks initiated by Norway were in progress, Jayalalitha suddenly convened a press conference and demanded the Sri Lankan government to extradite LTTE chief V Prabhakaran for facing trial in the Rajiv Gandhi murder case. If the Sri Lankan government failed to do so, she reiterated that the Indian Army should be sent to capture him.

Many people in India have little sympathy for the LTTE and it is a banned organisation here. However, the democratic view, that has been reiterated again, is that the Tamils should have their own state with more autonomy and powers within a united Sri Lankan state. And this has to be done through a peaceful dialogue. But then, unfortunately, Jayalalitha has peculiar ways of reacting to the sensitive problem concerning a neighboring country.

Another sudden, but this time more calculated, declaration she made on her return from a Delhi trip was that a foreigner shall not become the prime minister of the country. And to the irritation of the Congress circles, she repeatedly called Sonia Gandhi by her original name Antonio Maino Gandhi. She took most of these measures to curry favours with the Centre, which alone could save her at times of personal crisis.


Jayalalitha government launched a fresh onslaught on various sections of the people. Her decision bringing the state-run colleges under the purview of Universities enabled her government to change the service conditions of the teachers. It also enabled the administration to enhance the fee structure, seriously affecting the students hailing from the downtrodden sections. This decision resulted in the teachers of the government colleges going on an indefinite strike. The students too went on a strike in support of them. The students’ agitation was suppressed brutally by the Jayalalitha government. Intimidations, lathicharge, arrest and every form of terror technique was unleashed against the students who were led by the SFI and AISF. In Madurai, the AIADMK MLAs, ministers and goondas entered even the women's college premises to terrorise them. Two senior teachers committed suicide unable to stand the adamant stand of the government.

The state government employees were denied festival advance; their DA instalments were withheld; encashment of leave facility was withdrawn, Ten thousand workers of the State Highways Department were retrenched; 30,000 'Nutritious meal scheme' employees were identified as surplus; Fresh recruitments were stopped and many government departments were sought to be eventually privatised for achieving the rightsizing of the government employment.

The state government employees and all teachers’ organisations went on an indefinite strike from October 23 of this year. Lakhs of employees, considerable number of women included, participated in the strike enthusiastically for 11 days. Finally they withdrew the strike on November 1 before the Deepavali festival. The chief minister had, from the floor of the assembly, threatened the striking employees with dire consequences, menacingly gesticulating with her index finger.

All the central trade unions and middle class organisations went on a token strike on October 23, against the anti-worker policies of the state government with the main demand being the 'withdrawal of the Act banning strikes’.

The state government, through the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, announced a steep hike in the electricity tariff from December 1 that would impose a burden of about Rs 2150 crore at one go on the people of the state.  Supply of free electricity to the farmers is going to be withdrawn, the government had announced. Privatisation of the state owned transport corporation was announced recently. The issue price of rice distributed under the PDS was increased and consequently the off-take had drastically come down.

The rural populace is reeling under severe drought conditions, but the government refuses to take even minimal action. Procurement had also been stopped, the result of which would be seen in the coming harvesting season.

All such attacks on the people indicate that the Jayalalitha government, fearing no consequences, has been very seriously implementing the second generation reforms programme. Politically, every step she takes is in the direction of her journey towards rejoining the NDA. Unsolicited, she is taking a lot of supportive measures to the NDA government at the centre. On the twin questions of economic policy and communalism, her government has gone too far and crossed too many limits, which make it very difficult for her to backtrack. She must have surpassed the record of any state government, which in a short period of 18 months had taken as many anti-people, anti-democratic, communal and politically opportunistic positions.

The partners of NDA in the state, the DMK, PMK, MDMK and others are only interested in political polemics and empty rhetoric against the Jayalalitha government.  They are not ready to admit the plain fact that whatever she does in the state is a mere outcome/imitation of the centre’s policies enacted from time to time, where these parties have collective ministerial responsibility and accountability. In this background, the only redeeming feature in the state is the continuous mass movements being organised and conducted against these policies by secular and democratic forces led by the Left parties.