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Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Puducherry Cabinet formation stuck in BJP-ally power tussle

In the 30-member assembly, the NR Congress has 10 seats and BJP 6. However, the BJP is confident of garnering the support of six Independent MLAs.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai |
Updated: June 17, 2021 9:30:31 am
N Rangasamy took over as chief minister on May 7

More than a month after the NR Congress-BJP alliance won the assembly polls and formed government in Puducherry, it is yet to form a cabinet, largely because of a power tussle between the two allies.

According to sources, NR Congress chief N Rangasamy, who took over as chief minister on May 7, is engaged in intense deliberations over the past two weeks with the BJP leaders in the Union Territory, who have been building pressure for more representation in the Cabinet apart from other positions.

While it was widely speculated initially that the BJP wanted to have its own chief minister and sideline Rangasamy, the NR Congress chief not only managed to stand firm in his position but also appears to be dictating the terms. Sources said he turned down the BJP’s demand for three cabinet portfolios, and the posts of deputy chief minister and Speaker. The BJP has finally agreed to the posts he offered: two ministers, Speaker and a parliament secretary.

The sources said Rangasamy though has had his tense moments. “Each time he refused to budge, there were sleuths from central agencies standing outside his house,” alleged a top source close to Rangasamy. “He faced the heat often. He was pressured with regard to the alliance before the polls. After the polls, he was tense again as they wanted him to leave Puducherry. He was told to accept the Lt. Governor’s post in Lakshadweep and hand over the chief minister’s post to the BJP. He was nervous initially but has started setting the terms now.”

Giving other instances where Rangasami prevailed, a top source in the Puducherry government said: “He objected when the BJP proposed a nominated MLA to the post of Speaker. The BJP had to finally agree. He also refused to give them three cabinet portfolios instead of two. Now that they are ready to take it, he told them to come with a letter from the BJP national leadership, which is officially endorsing their ministers.”

“Earlier they [BJP] delayed the cabinet formation and Rangasamy was upset. But he is least bothered about it now. He had managed to tame them,” the source said.

When asked about his seemingly strict stand towards the BJP in the past two weeks, Rangasamy told The Indian Express: “Thank you.” On his demand for an endorsement letter from the BJP national leadership for its ministers, he said the letter will come soon. “The Speaker [BJP MLA Embalam R Selvam] was sworn in today. They will give the letter [on the ministers] soon. We will form the cabinet by next week,” he said.

A senior BJP leader said they have been told to maintain the equation with the NR Congress for some time, but their wish for the top post remains. “We will have a CM soon. But this is not the right time. Currently, the national leadership does not want us to go against the NR Congress,” he said.

In the 30-member assembly, the NR Congress has 10 seats and BJP 6. However, the BJP is confident of garnering the support of six Independent MLAs. The opposition Congress-DMK alliance has eight seats. The Congress, which led the previous government has two seats, while the DMK has six.

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