Cong loses Puducherry majority after 4 MLAs quit; Kiran Bedi replaced
A Congress MLA resigned from the Puducherry assembly on Tuesday – four have quit since January – bringing the party below the majority mark in the House, a development that came a day ahead of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the Union Territory (UT) and just months before assembly elections there. Hours later, Kiran Bedi was replaced as the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, with the Telangana governor being given the additional charge of the UT.
With Congress legislator A John Kumar’s resignation on Tuesday, the Congress’s tally in the 33-member assembly dropped to 10. Kumar, who was seen as a close aide of Puducherry chief minister V Narayanasamy, resigned after health minister Malladi Krishna Rao announced he was quitting the House on Monday. Two Congress MLAs-- A Namassivayam, and E Theepaindan -- resigned in January this year and later flew to Delhi to join the BJP. Another Congress MLA, N Dhanavelu, was disqualified in July 2020 for anti-party activities.
The assembly has 30 elected seats and three nominated members. In the 2016 assembly polls, the Congress won 15 seats. It has the support of three MLAs from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and an independent MLA. The Opposition comprises the All India NR Congress, a splinter group of former chief minister N Rangasamy, with seven seats and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, with four members. Three members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been nominated as MLAs to the assembly. Unlike some other states, the nominated members can vote in the Puducherry assembly.
Gandhi is scheduled to launch the Congress’s campaign on Wednesday for the UT’s elections, due in April-May.
Kumar handed his resignation on Tuesday to speaker VP Sivakolunthu after the health minister posted his resignation on Twitter on Monday. The Speaker told PTI he was perusing the letter and will take a decision soon. He said he received Rao’s resignation letter from the House through fax on Monday night. With the five vacancies, the strength has reduced to 28 in the Puducherry assembly.
On Tuesday night, a Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson said Bedi will “cease to hold” the office of the Lieutenant Governor. “The President has directed that Dr. Kiran Bedi shall cease to hold the office of the Lieutenant-Governor of Puducherry and has appointed Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan, Governor of Telangana, to discharge the functions of the Lieutenant-Governor of Puducherry, in addition to her own duties, with effect from the date she assumes charge of her office, until regular arrangements for the office of Lieutenant-Governor of Puducherry are made,” Ajay Kumar Singh, press secretary to the President, said in a statement.
An official in the L-G’s office said the development came as a surprise. “We are yet to receive an official communication of the change,” the official said, asking not to be named. “She likes to be in the driver’s seat, which is what created the friction between her and the chief minister,” the official added. At least three functionaries in Tamil Nadu told HT that one of the possible reasons of Bedi’s removal could be that she had a bitter relationship with the Congress leaders who recently quit the party and joined the BJP.
The Puducherry Congress said that its alliance held the majority amid calls from the Opposition, demanding CM’s resignation. “Our alliance with the DMK is strong...We have a majority and we will continue to function,” Narayanasamy said.
Rangasamy, however, said: “They have lost the majority with the four resignations, so the government has to come forward and voluntarily quit.”