Is there a Tamil Nadu model of development that the rest of the country needs to learn from?
An analysis by data journalism website Indiaspend written after the death of chief minister J. Jayalalithaa provides some interesting insights. The southern state has managed to build a diversified industrial base while also almost topping the national charts for social progress. In other words, it keeps Gujarat company in terms of industrial progress while pushing its social indicators close to levels seen in Kerala. The old debate about the Gujarat versus Kerala model has unfairly ignored the Tamil Nadu model that seems to have managed to do well on both fronts.
Here is one way of thinking about the political economy of Tamil Nadu. Its leaders such as Jayalalithaa have used freebies to buy social peace while pushing for industrial growth. This has also been a costly strategy. Tamil Nadu has a massive public debt. Two other factors are also important: the socially inclusive ideology of the Dravidian movement and strong regional leaders.