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Jaya plugs computer in poll promise rush

Chennai, May 5: Poll sops, a feature of Indian politics since the days of the bullock-cart economy, reached the computer age today.

Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa has promised a free computer to every needy student who passes the Senior Secondary Board Examination (plus II) if the ADMK is voted back to power in the May 8 election.

Thanks to the one-upmanship between her and M. Karunanidhi, the freebie list for the Assembly polls had long exhausted the run-of-the-mill free rice and farm loan waivers and ventured into the novel world of colour TV sets and mangalsutras.

But Jayalalithaa had saved her best for last, striking the coup de grace with hours left for the campaign deadline to pass.

“Poor students cannot afford a computer,” she told a rally on the outskirts of Chennai this evening. “So, I am offering every poor boy and girl a computer free on passing the plus II exam.”

As a sea of bewildered faces looked back at her, the chief minister went on to explain that as information technology was a “sunrise industry”, knowledge of computers had become a must to get good jobs.

Election Commission sources said there is no law to prevent any political party from making poll promises.

“Promises can be made till the last day of campaigning,” a senior poll panel official said.

Between them, the DMK and ADMK have already taken care of many other aspects of poor voters’ lives, with free rice to eat and free gas stoves to cook it, free colour TV for the free hours and land for every landless family.

A few days ago, the chief minister had come up with what was till then her most creative move, pledging four grams of free gold to every poor bride without prejudice against any community. If she were a Hindu, the gold could go into the mangalsutra; if a Christian, into the wedding ring.

An official said if a party’s promises target a specific community or caste, the poll commission can step in.

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