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Questions within Congress: Did high command neglect discontent?

Although the Congress believes it can gain in the upcoming elections, riding on a sympathy factor, party leaders say many questions remain.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi |
Updated: February 23, 2021 2:20:20 pm
Puducherry government, Congress party, V Narayanasamy, Puducherry election, Puducherry news, Indian express newsCongress leaders said both Narayanasamy and the high command were “overconfident” and “underestimated” both the discontent brewing in the party as also vulnerability of some of its MLAs.

As the Congress lost its government in Puducherry, fingers are being pointed at V Narayanasamy, who resigned as chief minister after his government lost majority, as also the party high command over the way politics in the Union Territory has been handled.

Although the Congress believes it can gain from the development in the upcoming elections riding on the sympathy factor, party leaders say many questions remain.

Congress leaders said both Narayanasamy and the high command were “overconfident” and “underestimated” both the discontent brewing in the party as also vulnerability of some of its MLAs. The party had last year lost its government in Madhya Pradesh; in 2019 its coalition government in Karnataka had fallen.

In Puducherry, Congress leaders said attempts to poach its MLAs had begun in 2018 itself. They said MLAs E Theeppainthan and Vizeaveny V had complained to then Speaker V Vaithilingam that two MLAs, one from AIADMK and another from NR Congress, had approached them with an offer for financial and other support to switch sides. Sources said audio recordings were also handed over to the Speaker.

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When contacted, Vaithilingam confirmed he had received the complaint. Although he inquired into the matter, it did not reach any conclusion. In 2019, he resigned to contest Lok Sabha. His successor as Speaker, V P Sivakolundhu, Congress leaders claimed, did not take it forward. “We knew all along that there were attempts…some of our MLAs and leaders like former PWD minister A Namassivayam were upset. But we did not do enough to address these issues,” one Puducherry leader told The Indian Express.

A party high command leader countered, saying leaders like Namassivayam were given key portfolios. “What else can we give? If he wanted to be CM he should have had the support of the MLAs. He has joined BJP now,” a top party leader said. “The BJP will be in alliance with AIADMK and NR Congress. NR Congress leader N Rangasamy wants to be the CM…he was the CM earlier. So what will Namassivayam do?”

“Moreover, Namassivayam’s father-in-law is Rangasamy’s elder brother…” this leader said.

What is unsaid is that Speaker Sivakolundhu has also become a suspect in the eyes of many Congress leaders – not just for not taking forward the complaint but for his role in the last few days. Congress sources said Narayanasamy was hoping that the Speaker would not allow the three nominated BJP MLAs to cast their votes. “But he did not say anything in the House,” one leader said.

One senior leader said he would not be surprised if Speaker Sivakolundhu resigns and joins another party in the next few days. “Remember, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is coming to Puducherry on February 25. The BJP would like to make his visit a big success,” one leader said.

Narayanasamy’s critics in the party said the high command should have addressed the discontent brewing in the party earlier. “He was given a free hand while many leaders were upset,” one leader said.

The AICC, too, it appears, did not expect the government would be toppled. “We anticipated some problems. We expected one or two people to go. But we thought that since the election is round the corner, why would they want to topple the government,” a high command leader said. “For us it is a benefit in some ways. We have got one big talking point…the focus would have been solely on the government’s performance. Now we can talk about all this.”

Lashing out at the BJP, AICC in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao said democracy stands murdered in Puducherry. “The actions of BJP, the Central government, using agencies such as CBI, IT, ED, they have threatened, blackmailed and coerced our MLAs,” he said. “They also used crores of rupees to indulge in horse-trading and to topple an elected government, which, for the last five years, despite the obstructions, non-cooperation of the Modi Government and the L-G, worked for the people.”

“Today, an elected government has been destabilised, because of the mafia politics of BJP – what they have done in different states in India. What they have done in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, in north-eastern states, what they are doing in West Bengal. It shows that they have no respect for democracy and this will not go down well in Puducherry,” Gundu Rao said.

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