Puducherry to go to polls along with Tamil Nadu on April 6
The Congress government in Puducherry dissolved on February 22 after failing to prove a majority in the 33-member house.
Puducherry, which was brought under the President’s rule a day ago, will go to polls on April 6 - the same day as neighbouring Tamil Nadu - in a single phase. “Most of the political parties wanted the elections to be conducted along with Tamil Nadu,” said chief election commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora. “Both sides probably felt unsavoury elements coming from this side or that side.”
The Congress government in Puducherry dissolved on February 22 after failing to prove a majority in the 33-member house as there was a spate of resignations from its MLAs. 30 MLAs are elected while three nominated ones are from the BJP. V Narayanasamy resigned as the chief minister on the same day, blaming the BJP for toppling his government.
The term of the Puducherry government would have expired on 8 June but the opposition did not stake a claim. The elections will see a bitter battle from three corners - the Congress, which claims to have the people’s mandate; a resurgent BJP, which has no presence in the Union territory but is building its base politically and administratively; and the opposition led by former chief minister N Rangasamy’s All India NR Congress (AINRC).
Amongst the Congress MLAs who resigned, two have joined the BJP complaining against Narayanasamy. Given its internal tussle, it remains to be seen who will the Congress field to reclaim the top post. Rangasamy will run the race to be the next chief minister even as the BJP is said to be projecting A Namassivayam who joined them after quitting as public works minister in January. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched BJP’s campaign from Puducherry blaming the Congress for not cooperating with the centre.
Adding to Congress’ woes, the local Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leadership in the Union territory had expressed its desire to contest alone. “More people may switch over to the BJP or the AINRC,” said political commentator Maalan Narayanan. “Congress will fight the elections on a sympathy card. The DMK will be happy if the Congress is weakened so it can leverage more seats in Tamil Nadu and contest alone in Puducherry. Rangasamy will have an edge in this scenario as he has ruled before and it was not a bad rule.”
DMK chief MK Stalin, however, came to the support of Narayansamy and announced that the DMK would move court if the BJP tried to delay the elections in Puducherry ‘indirectly through the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G)’.
Amidst the spate of resignations, Kiran Bedi, who had a stand-off with Narayanasamy, was removed as the L-G and Telangana governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, a former BJP chief of Tamil Nadu, was given the additional charge of Puducherry.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came to power in the 2016 Assembly elections by winning 15 seats including that of the Speaker. The coalition has three DMK members and an Independent legislator.
The alliance lost its majority, after losing as many as seven lawmakers out of which six Congress MLAs had resigned since January 2021. One Congress MLA was disqualified last year for ‘anti-party’ activities. A DMK MLA who resigned a day before the floor test was removed from the party by the high command in Tamil Nadu. With the resignations, the ruling coalition’s numbers reduced to 12 while the opposition had the majority of 14 MLAs with seven from the AINRC, four from the AIADMK and the three BJP-nominated members.