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Pondicherry readies for elections

Three constituencies of Pondicherry go to the polls in the first phase on Wednesday.

india Updated: May 02, 2006 19:18 IST

The picturesque union territory of Pondicherry that touches three southern Indian states begins its electoral process on Wednesday with the ruling Congress-led alliance fighting dissent and opposition to stay in power.

Three constituencies of Pondicherry go to the polls in the first phase on Wednesday.

While Mahe and Palloor that fall in Kerala and Yanam in Andhra Pradesh vote in the first phase, the second round in the 27 other constituencies will be held on May 8.

The total number of voters in the former French colony is 659,062. This is the only territory where the electorate belongs to three linguistic communities - Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu. Three more members to the assembly are nominated.

A party or coalition grouping here requires just 16 seats to be able to form a government.

Being small and beautiful does not, however, make it free of factionalism. To ensure that the government does not fall every time a disgruntled member defects to the opposition, the three nominated members are empowered to vote during any confidence move the government faces.

The Congress holds 13 seats in the outgoing assembly and the DMK has 12. The AIADMK has three seats and independents hold two. In a bid to snatch power, the AIADMK is contesting 16 seats across the territory.

Although the ruling Congress-DMK coalition is projected as leading, neighbouring Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK-led alliance is giving it a fierce fight.

But Mahe, Palloor and Yanam are exceptions.

In Mahe and Palloor, which fall in Kerala's Kannur district, the fight is between the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Congress.

The Congress is expected to have a virtual cakewalk in Yanam where the AIADMK does not have much of a presence but is still trying its luck against the Congress candidate.

The campaign in the last few days has also been different from established patterns. The Pondicherry constituencies did not witness whirlwind tours or public rallies with candidates preferring door-to-door campaigns.

Pondicherry has been a foreign colony since the 17th century. The French, Portuguese, Danes and the Dutch arrived on its shores in the early 1600s.

The French, who colonised the territory in 1699, and the British had had a long conflict of more than seven decades for the region since 1742.

The territory unified four small former French colonies - Pondicherry and Karaikal (Tamil Nadu coast), Yanam (Andhra Pradesh) and Mahe (Kerala).

Around 20,000 people from Pondicherry now live in France and nearly 10,000 French citizens live in its region.

First Published: May 02, 2006 19:18 IST