Freebie war: Jaya showers voters with laptops, free rice

Taking the war of freebies to a new high, AIADMK manifesto for April 13 Assembly elections today promised 20 kg of free rice for ration-card holders, laptops for students from classes XI, free fans, mixers and grinders to all and mineral water to BPL families.

Seeking to match her bete noir DMK President M Karunanidhi, AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa showered freebies in the manifesto, which she released here after filing her nomination from temple town of Srirangam, moving away from the rural Andipatti constituency.

In a bid to woo women voters, Jayalalithaa promised four gms of gold for 'Thali' (mangalsutra) free of cost to poor, besides cable TV connections at subsidised rates.

The freebies promised by AIADMK marks a U-turn from Jayalalithaa's opposition to such populist schemes announced by the DMK in 2006 elections, which was perceived to have tilted the balance in its favour.

Apparently targeting the Maran brothers who hold a near monopoly over the cable TV distribution across the state, she also promised nationalisation of multi-system operators.

Sumangali Cable Vision, owned by the Sun Network of media baron Kalanidhi Maran and his brother and Union Minister Dayananidhi Maran, grand nephews of Karunanidhi, presently commands a virtual stranglehold over the cable TV business.

AIADMK if voted to power would provide free bus passes to all citizens aged over 58, a sugarcane procurement price of Rs 2,500 a tonne, a restructured health insurance scheme for all and a special scheme for the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, now lodged in camps across the state, she said.

Four sets of uniform and footwear for students, 20 litres of mineral water a day to Below Poverty Line families, six months' maternity leave for women and Rs 12,000 as pregnancy allowance have also been promised.

The party assured assistance ranging from Rs 1000-Rs 5000 for students from class X onwards in government and private schools, with a view to bring down the school drop-out rate.

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