Plagiarism is often heard in connection with research papers and theses. But it has become a popular phrase in Tamil Nadu, with the release of election manifestos of different political parties. There are allegations and counter allegations accusing each other of copying the contents of manifestos.
Five years ago, DMK Chief M Karunanidhi released their manifesto for the 2011 assembly elections; many believed it was his masterstroke. Having delivered on his 2006 promise of free colour TV sets, this time the DMK sought to move from the voter's drawing room to the kitchen with the promise of free mixies or grinders -whichever the woman of the house chose. Three days later, AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa scored over Karunanidhi at his game: why to opt between a mixie and a grinder, she offered both to voters with an electric fan. Jayalalithaa offered free rice for all ration card holders, laptops for all senior students and gold for women. It did the magic. She won the election that was history and pushed the DMK into the third position.
The making of the manifesto is serious business in the political drawing rooms. Parties set up panels with senior members and external experts, including economists to brainstorm. While the party's proposals on education, health and welfare have mostly been glossed over, the mention of free smartphones has attracted the youths. The relevance of welfare has been hijacked by freebies. And here is the danger of mistaking freebies for welfare measures, and proposals with long-lasting welfare potential not being debated.
While political parties are burning a lot of mid night oil to pour thoughts into the manifesto, some parties are hijacking the salient features of others into their manifesto. DMK is not averse to this, if the charges of the PMK are true. Releasing his party's manifesto for the May 16 Assembly polls, PMK founder Dr S Ramadoss alleged that DMK “has copied 42 schemes”, proposed in a draft manifesto released in September last. “The DMK has copied 42 schemes, literally lifting them from our draft manifesto. This includes implementation of Prohibition, establishing Lok Ayukta, Right to Service Act and appointing a panel to the Chief Minister to advise on economic affairs,” he told the reporters in Chennai recently. In its manifesto, along with many popular promises, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) said, a Lok Ayukta would be established and Chief Ministers and his colleagues would be brought under it and assured to bring in Right to Public Service Act.
Total prohibition figured prominently in the manifesto released by the party president, M Karunanidhi. It has promised setting up of the Lok Ayukta, enactment of the Right to Service Act, a separate budget for agriculture, a ministry for irrigation, waiver of crop loans for small and micro farmers, steps to include fishermen in the scheduled tribes list as ‘marine tribes’ .
The manifesto said, if elected, the DMK government would formulate schemes to offset the loss of revenue caused by prohibition and reduce stamp charges for transfer of property between blood relatives. “Stalin has been highlighting all the points mentioned in the DMK manifesto in his ‘Namakku Naame’ tour last year. The promises or policies highlighted during his tour have been widely reported in media as well as in our party organ Murasoli. What is the need for us to copy?” a senior DMK leader asked. Implementing the DMK's 2016 manifesto would cost TN an additional Rs 70,000 crore, 70 per cent of the state's revenue. Now it is the time to wait for Jayalalithaa's manifesto for more freebies. n TS Venkatesan