I want to make Tamil Nadu better than Singapore
By P C Vinoj Kumar
Making a dramatic electoral debut by fielding candidates in all 234 assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu, Naam Thamizhar Katchi (NTK) headed by Senthamizhan Seeman is seeking to prove its strength in the state, where its top brass flaunt their fiery oratorical skills, reminiscent of the early days of DMK when its leaders like Annadurai and Karunanidhi used alliterations effectively in their political speeches to woo the masses.
The DMK, founded in 1949, came to power in Tamil Nadu - then known as Madras State, which was renamed Tamil Nadu by the first DMK government - in 1967 defeating the Congress which was ruling the state since independence.
Naam Thamizhar Katchi leader Seeman has fielded candidates in all 234 assembly constituencies of Tamil Nadu
Ever since, Tamil Nadu has remained a bastion of the Dravidian parties, with the DMK and its offshoot, the AIADMK, founded by matinee idol M G Ramachandran, and presently led by Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, ruling the state alternately.
Tamil Nadu is facing a multi-cornered contest this time. Besides the DMK alliance, a Vijayakanth led six-party front, the PMK, BJP, and NTK are making a strong pitch to the voters to give them a chance to form the government in Tamil Nadu.
Parties are raking up the corruption charges against the DMK and the AIADMK during their rule and projecting themselves as the alternative.
While all other parties have faced elections previously, and have aligned with one or both of the Dravidian parties in the past, for NTK this is its first election and importantly, it is contesting on its own and that too in all 234 constituencies.
No party has debuted in such fashion. DMK entered the electoral fray in 1957 and contested in only 100 seats. In its maiden assembly election in 1977, AIADMK contested in 155 seats.
NTK’s founder leader Seeman contends that the two parties have failed the state and he would do better, if the people gave him an opportunity.
Seeman campaigning in his constituency along with his party cadre (Photo: H K Rajashekar)
“My inspiration is Lee Kuan Yew (the father of modern Singapore). I want to make Tamil Nadu better than Singapore,” says Seeman, in the midst of his campaigning at Cuddalore where he is contesting from.
“Singapore hardly had any resources, but we have plenty available, and that’s why I am saying we can do much better,” says the 45-year-old politician, exhibiting time and again sharp clarity of thought while explaining his policies.
Seeman is pitted against AIADMK candidate and state minister M C Sampath, and contestants from DMK, TMC, PMK and BJP. Party youth, many of them from the IT industry, have arrived from other districts to help him win the seat.
Cadres are engaged in door-to-door campaigning even in remote villages and asking people to vote for ‘two candles,’ the party’s symbol. They believe that their leader is capable of delivering what he has promised.
What is refreshing about the NTK’s manifesto is that it steers clear of the freebies culture that the DMK and the AIADMK have thrust on the state.
Seeman seeking votes from fishermen in Cuddalore (Photo: H K Rajashekar)
Instead, the NTK has presented its action plan on issues like managing water resources and conserving it, promoting agrarian based economy, tree planting programmes, and making Tamil Nadu a fully organic state.
It is this development oriented approach of the party that has apparently caught the attention of many young educated voters, who are campaigning for the party on social media and in the constituencies
NTK’s manifesto contains details of how the party proposes to conserve water resources in the state and reduce its dependency on the neighbouring states.
“Tamil Nadu receives an average annual rainfall of 950 mm, compared to Karnataka’s 722 mm and Andhra Pradesh’s 980 mm.
“Out of the 4,000 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of rainwater we receive annually, we use only 1500 tmcft and allow the rest of the water to flow into the sea,” says Seeman, adding that his party’s priority would be to build sufficient number of tanks and reservoirs across the state to tap the rainwater.
“In the western world, groundwater is used sparingly. They largely use the stored rainwater for their needs. But we have no such foresight and allow water intensive industries like automobile factories and softdrink companies to set up their plants here,” he points out.
Seeman has been travelling throughout the state and meeting people and explaining to them his party's policies on various issues
The party manifesto has spelt out plans to increase the tree cover in the state, especially along the highways and banks of reservoirs, tanks and lakes.
“The number of trees per person in India is much lower than the global average of 422. Canada has 8,953 trees per person, the US has 699 per person, China has 130 per person, but India has just 28 trees per person.
“There is no use talking about global warming. We need to do something about it by developing water resources, planting trees and increasing biodiversity,” says Seeman, adding that he would increase the tree density per person in Tamil Nadu on par with the global average of 422 within 10 years of coming to power.
A party that was formed in the wake of the brutal massacre of Tamils during the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka has evolved itself to be a political force in Tamil Nadu.
Its performance in the May 16 elections will give an indication of the level of impact it has had on the Tamil Nadu electorate.