Free for all

Election in Tamil Nadu is the time to win people over with freebees. Here’s how the parties play the game.

With people in Tamil Nadu set to decide their fate on May 16, the state’s key political parties – All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) – are working night and day to prepare their manifestos, which, in the past, largely contained a list of freebies for voters.

Over the past decade, successive governments in the state have spent nearly $2 billion (Rs 11,561 crore) largely on three freebie schemes: colour television sets, laptops and household appliances.

Here’s a look at what the parties have doled out in the past:


The first file that J Jayalalithaa signed when she became chief minister in May 2011 was for giving free gold for thali (mangal sutra) to poor women for their wedding,

20 kg of rice for 18.6 million people

Mixies, grinders and fans to 16.3 million families at the cost of Rs 6,553 crore

Free cows and goats in rural areas

Laptops. In the last five years, Rs 6,456.44 crore have been spent on buying laptops to be distributed among voters

School uniforms, chappals included

Stipend for college students

60,000 milch cows at a cost of Rs 210 crore and 27,80,000 goats to 6,95,000 marginalised families at a cost of Rs 897 crore.

Poor-friendly programmes under brand Amma, which includes unagavagam (canteen), mineral water, vegetables, seeds, mobiles, cement, medicine, salt, tea, seeds, bay kits and medical scheme.

A 24-hour maternity scheme and distribution of free sanitary napkins

Promised in 2011: houses for 300,000 people
Rice for Rs 1 per kg

Free television sets. Since 2006, the party has bought 15.3 million TV sets for $773 million, according to the Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu

Kalaignar health insurance scheme (later terminated by the AIADMK government)

Kalaignar housing scheme (later scrapped by the AIADMK government)

Free for all

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