Chennai, May 5: After rice politics, it's the offer of free gold by the ruling AIADMK and financial assistance to girls below the poverty line for marriage by the DMK that has been dominating the election campaign, which is reaching a climax.
With just a day remaining for the no-holds barred campaign to end for the May eight Assembly polls, the announcement by the AIADMK offering half a sovereign gold resulted in a war of words between the two Dravidian parties.
The DMK claimed that only after it highlighted that the AIADMK Government withdrew the marriage assistance scheme launched by its regime, had Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa made the golden offer.
It was nothing but a modification of the DMK's mention in the poll manifesto that the financial aid for marriage would be increased from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 if the party was voted to power, the DMK said.
Earlier, countering the DMK's offer of Rs two a kg rice under the PDS, Ms Jayalalithaa questioned its feasibility before announcing that ten kg of rice would be given to BPL families free.
After this, the DMK's free Colour TV offer dominated the scene and prompted the AIADMK to say it would provide cable connections at subsidised rates.
Even as the debate on these sops continued, with some parties saying they were violations of the model code of conduct, Miss Jayalalithaa said the AIADMK, if voted to power would give four gm gold to make 'thaali' (mangalsutra) for every girl during her marriage. She added later that the offer was applicable to girls from all religions, after the DMK raised the question.
She said the half sovereign gold would be given to daughters of farmers covered by the Farmers Protection scheme and BPL families at the time of their marriage, irrespective of caste and religion.
The offer was not restricted to one girl in a family but any number.
'Girls from different religions can use the gold according to their religious customs and practices. Christians can use it for making wedding rings, if they so want, and Muslims as per their religious needs', she said.
Blaming the Centre for the skyrocketing gold prices, Ms Jayalalithaa claimed the price would touch Rs 10,000 per sovereign in the next few years and the poor could not think of purchasing the yellow metal. The DMK's argument was that normally 'Thaalis' would be provided by the bridegroom and it would be appropriate to give financial assistance to them.
To drive home its point, the DMK said the offer of four grams of free gold was less than financial aid of Rs 15,000 announced by it.
'At present a gram of gold costs about Rs 900 and four grams comes to Rs 3600. If one goes by the DMK's scheme of Rs 10,000 being given to girls from BPL, for marriage, there is a shortfall of Rs 6,400. It will go up to Rs 11,400 if Rs 15,000 is given', a DMK leader argued.
'Ms Jayalalithaa's announcement is aimed at cheating people and a last minute attempt to woo voters. It amounted to bribing people', DMK stalwart and former Minister Veerapandi S Arumugham told UNI.
'Being part of the government and making such announcements is violation of the model code of conduct. If the AIADMK had said it in their manifesto no one will object to it', he added.
It may be noted it was the same 'gold issue' that spelt doom for the Janata party in the 1980 polls, when the DMK, as an ally of the Congress, protested against the rising prices of gold.
The Tamil film 'Ramayee Vayasukku Vandhutta' (Ramayee has attained maturity) came in handy for the DMK to press home the advantage.
The DMK's 'Ramayee attained maturity, where is the gold?', turned out to be the key factor in the Janata Party's loss.
With the issue again taking centre-stage during the fag end of campaigning, will it cut much ice among the electors? Will the DMK be second time lucky? It remains to be seen.