In Puducherry, a political crisis | HT Editorial
In Puducherry, on Monday, the Congress government, led by chief minister V Narayanasamy, lost power. Faced with desertions of four legislators — two resigned on Sunday — the government fell short of a majority, and the CM choose to resign instead of facing a floor test. The fall of the Congress government is significant, for it comes weeks before the Union Territory will hold elections. It has also happened days after the President of India, on the Centre’s recommendation, divested Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi of her charge and assigned it to Telangana’s governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, who asked the CM to prove his majority. The fall of the Congress government has led to a predictable exchange of accusations — with the CM accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of destabilising his government and the BJP accusing the Congress of misgoverning the UT.
Puducherry has confirmed, yet again, three broader trends in national politics. The first is the inability of the Congress to manage its internal affairs. Reports suggest that there had been brewing disenchantment with the CM’s style of functioning, and legislators were looking out for political opportunities. Despite being the only southern region where the party is in power, the Congress high command clearly did not pay enough attention to these rumblings and address the internal discord. The fact that internal discord cost the Congress power in Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Karnataka just recently — and the party was about to lose its government in Rajasthan — should have alerted it to the need to stem internal factional divisions.
Second, the developments confirm the BJP’s political aggression and willingness to deploy all means to weaken the Congress and ensure non-Congress governments, even if the BJP cannot, on its own, provide an alternative as is the case in Puducherry. But, most importantly, as analyst Chakshu Roy pointed out in this newspaper, the episode exposes the utter failure of the anti-defection law. It fails in stopping legislators from shifting allegiances and the ouster of governments due to these shifts, while stifling genuine voices from among legislators, beyond party lines, on issues of public importance. The practical realities of Indian politics — the ineptness of the Congress and the BJP’s quest for power — and the dysfunctionality of existing legal frameworks such as the anti-defection law has led to Puducherry’s pre-poll political shift.