Updated: March 16, 2021 12:34:06 pm
The unprecedented defections from the ruling Congress to the BJP, a national party without a single elected representative in the Puducherry Assembly, in the last two months led to the collapse of the Narayanasamy government in the Union Territory. The BJP was blamed for “toppling” the government by purchasing Congress MLAs.
The BJP’s plan to have their own government and chief minister in Puducherry, however, is unlikely to materialise as the All India NR Congress chief and former CM N Rangasamy has made it clear: “You make me the CM, we will go together.”
What was BJP’s plan?
A Namasivayam, a senior Congress leader considered second in the previous cabinet, was the first to join the BJP in January. He was among the half-a-dozen Congress MLAs who quit the government two months ahead of assembly polls.
While BJP’s calculation was to make Namasivayam a CM candidate, it has faced roadblocks from his uncle – Rangasamy of NR Congress, the powerful leader who commands respect and clout across parties.
Rangasamy has categorically conveyed that he should be declared the CM candidate to strike an alliance with BJP in the election. The AIADMK is already an ally of NR Congress.
There were informal queries from the DMK too for an alliance with NR Congress.
Another plan before the BJP, which they did not choose, was a prolonged President rule after the collapse of government and take majority of the population into confidence by pumping Central funds and streamlining sectors that are bankrupt.
Since the polls are hardly a month away, what the Centre could do now is development works such as laying roads, using municipalities, which are free from the model code of conduct. Still, the BJP or Lt. Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan may not be credited for this as ordinary people would be seeing them as works of their local MLAs.
If the BJP is finally being forced to agree with Rangasamy’s CM candidate, it would be a huge setback to Namasivayam and a battalion of defectors, who followed him to the saffron party. Not only that Namasivayam was promised the CM post, but he is also a leader who missed the opportunity to become the CM in 2016 as Narayanasamy, strongly backed by the Congress high command, grabbed the post.
Will BJP agree to Rangasamy’s demand?
The national party may have been upbeat when the Congress government collapsed. Soon after the President rule was imposed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew down to Puducherry, where he said the Union Territory was neglected under the Congress regime.
But it is almost certain that the BJP – a party without a cadre base here – could not maintain their enthusiasm anymore as they don’t have many options left. Defectors like Namasivayam, who is also the son-in-law of Rangasamy’s brother, are familiar names but they are also known as people who nurtured their own constituencies.
After all, the BJP was a party without a single elected MLA but made their footprint in the assembly through three nominated members from their party with the help of former Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi. Surrendering before Rangasamy may be the only option left before the BJP.
Will NR Congress strike an alliance with DMK?
In this tiny Union Territory, unlike in Tamil Nadu, every other leader talks to each other. There were such informal friendly talks between NR Congress and DMK as well.
“But it is impossible for Rangasamy to strike an alliance with DMK as there is another leader who would do anything to become the CM,” said a senior NR Congress leader referring to DMK’s S Jagathrakshakan, former UPA minister and one of the richest politicians with huge business interests and investments.
Jagathrakshakan is making all possible attempts to become the CM of Puducherry. Earlier, DMK had forced him to correct a statement he made that the DMK would be contesting alone in Puducherry.
Moreover, leaders in both parties admit that there is a mistrust between both the leaders.
What are the decisive factors in Puducherry?
Alliance talks are still in progress. The Congress party that was ousted from power seems to have taken a strategy to wait-and-watch about their plans, especially when their talk with the DMK in Tamil Nadu is also struggling to find a middle ground.
While the AIADMK is an ally of NR Congress, BJP’s stake in the alliance remains unclear over the dispute over CM candidature.
In the 30-member assembly with four key parties, including Congress, NR Congress, DMK and AIADMK, and the BJP hoping for elected MLAs this time, whoever with seven or more MLAs will be considered as heavy weights to form the government.
The previous Narayanasamy government wasn’t popular among the organised working class, including employees of government and other government-attached institutions which are bankrupt or struggling for funds. A section of them, however, may be reflecting a similar voting behaviour in favour of the BJP for being the ruling party at the Centre and hoping for benefits and advantages for government workers.
While Jagathrakashakan of DMK and Namasivayam of BJP are all eyeing the CM post, Rangasamy continues to be the winning factor, and a disturbing face too for all other parties.
In spite of all these conventional political factors that would play in Puducherry, the key element would be the power of liquor. Multiple sources in Puducherry’s top bureaucracy believe that what had led to the removal of Bedi from Lt. Governor post was also the power of this liquor lobby ahead of polls.
“There are over a dozen breweries in Puducherry whose production and marketing have a murkier pattern as not even half of their production is accounted for in the formal market but they reach shops straight through informal channels. Crores of money is paid as bribes to politicians, from top to bottom, irrespective of power, in this highly institutionalised nasty system. Bedi had sealed some 25 shops, it had irked those liquor barons. But most of them are open again after she left,” said a top source familiar with the Puducherry administration.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.