Amma & Food Politics

For years food has always been a vital ingredient in South, especially Dravidian politics. Tamil Nadu has a history of mixing politics and food for many years during elections. Rice being the main food, the price of rice has played a vital role. With Jayalalitha’s Re 1-Idli scheme becoming a hit with even the middle class; has she perfected the art of food bank politics? Has this given her the confidence for the coming 2014 general elections to do well against her arch opponent DMK?

In 1967 assembly elections in the state was fought purely on rice. But the main question being – is Food Politics a political bribe to the common voters? Does it augur well for Indian democracy and national politics?

The 200 canteens sell 2.73 lakh Idlis, 62,500 plates of Sambhar rice and 34,500 plates of Curd rice everyday. Twelve women are employed in each canteen on a monthly salary of Rs 9,000 each. The total cost to the exchequer is Rs 31 crore, and income of each canteen is about Rs 2,500-4,500. The positive from this is, it has generated employment for about 2,400 women and empowered the illiterate women in remote areas.

The equivalent in Maharastra is the Zunka baker stalls. One wonders if it is as remunerative and effective politically as Amma’s effort in Tamil Nadu.

And you have Uttar Pradesh CM Akilesh Yadav’s much applauded free laptop scheme which has drained the state’s treasury. Now UP has no fund for conducting school exams. Budgetry allocation in 2012-13 for tablets and laptops is Rs 2,621 crore. May be tomorrow some shrewd politician may offer free houses, tractors or free holidays for the family. Where will this take Indian democracy? Is winning election at all costs the main motto? Where will the money come to finance these attractive schemes?

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