Hyderabad: People of Tamil Nadu are known to be decisive in their choice. This has been the unique facet of the voters in the State. They have demonstrated this trait in the past and this time, too, they exhibited it in full measure. They have chosen to vote out the AIADMK and ushered in M.K. Stalin-led DMK alliance to Fort St. George. Like in the past, they have done this in an unambiguous manner this time too. That brings Tamil Nadu into a sharp focus.
M K Stalin takes over the Chief Minister’s mantle at an extremely difficult time. And, the challenges are aplenty. Stalin may have realised his Chief Ministerial ambition at long last. But it is not going to be easy running the government. With the country, as a whole, reeling under the second wave of a virus that has completely washed out 2020, the portents for 2021 looks even grimmer. Past numbers aren’t relevant today, however, depending on which side of the table one is on, anybody can interpret the critical economic numbers accordingly.
We need to look beyond that to understand the problem on hand for the new Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Perception matters for investors. And, their perception about Tamil Nadu is negative at the moment to say the least. Who is responsible for this? A few issues in the past have shown the State poorly to investors at large. The Jallikattu agitation in the middle of the E Palanisamy Government of the AIADMK had dented the image of the State. The Jallikattu agitation itself did not cause it. However, when the whole thing was turned into an anti-MNC campaign, it caused immense damage to the reputation of the State. Coke, Pepsi and the like were stressed, and much of their management bandwidth then was expended in quelling the negative campaign against them.
Secondly, the way the State Government succumbed to pressures when the water dispute with neighbouring Karnataka was raging. That forced a sporting event out of the State. Chennai Super Kings (CSK), a popular IPL (Indian Premier League) franchise, was forced to move its matches out of Chennai. If a sporting event could not be conducted in a State, how do you expect investors to walk in and set up a permanent shop here?
The Sterlite Copper imbroglio had only gotten the State into a cobweb. When police firing outside the factory premises of Sterlite at Thuthukudi killed over a dozen people, the State ordered the closure of the plant permanently. The Sterlite issue has moved up to the highest court of the country since then.
One can endlessly debate the right or wrong of allowing the Sterlite plant in Tamil Nadu. The fact, however, was that it was allowed to run for over 20 years. Political class, as a whole, showed a complete lack of statesmanship in the Sterlite episode. All these have sent out a wrong signal to the investors at large. The local businessmen, in the meanwhile, are wary of the native politicians. Many of them have become averse to putting more money into a State where they grew up. That the Russian company which makes AK47 rifles chose to shun Tamil Nadu and set up its base in Amethi reflects the predicament of the investing community. We have Sri City near Chennai. Though bordering Chennai, it falls under Andhra Pradesh. The then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu, was aggressively pushing for investment into his State. And, Sri City proved to be an ideal location. And, it has become a convenient location for even industries in Tamil Nadu to expand!
Since Hyundai has a base in Tamil Nadu, one expected Kia Motors, the group company, also to set up its India production unit in the Dravadian land. But Kia moved to Andhra Pradesh. There were speculations on why they moved to Andhra Pradesh. If sources were to go by, the Kia Motor issue did not speak good of the ruling political management at that time.
At the moment, the perception is no good. One can spruce up the numbers to give a healthy picture. But the ground reality is different. This needs to be quickly erased. And, a sense of comfort and a feeling of belonging are missing at the moment. And, the Stalin Government will do well to erase this perception. In these Covid times, there are very many newer opportunities for the government to cash in on. Digital will be the new mantra. And, Tamil Nadu is well equipped to seize the initiative on this front. Also, healthcare could be the focus field for the new government. Change is the only constant, it is often said. Well, this change can be good for the people of Tamil Nadu. The onus clearly on Stalin, however, to make it so. The theme should be growth. And the focus should be more jobs.
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