Updated: February 18, 2021 8:23:20 am
Political activity has picked up pace in Puducherry ahead of assembly elections with the Centre recalling on Tuesday the Lieutenant Governor of the Union Territory, Kiran Bedi. The move seems to have caught all the players off guard — though Chief Minister V Narayanasamy had petitioned Rashtrapati Bhavan multiple times for a replacement and a delegation led by the CM had called on President Ram Nath Kovind only a few days ago with such a request. Bedi’s removal from office has coincided with the Congress government losing its majority in the Assembly. Telangana governor and former BJP chief of Tamil Nadu, Tamilisai Soundararajan, has been entrusted with the UT at a time of political uncertainty in the run-up to assembly elections.
Bedi and the Congress government in Puducherry have had a running feud from the day she was appointed as the LG. As in the National Capital Region, the LG and CM disagreed over their respective powers and responsibilities. Bedi was accused of usurping executive powers and transgressing into the domains of the legislature and the state cabinet as she cancelled orders of the government in the name of streamlining administration and curbing corruption in the system. Relations between the LG and the government reached a nadir when Bedi nominated three BJP leaders to the assembly and thereby gave a voice to the party that had no electoral presence in the UT. The BJP has since been increasing its footprint by winning over legislators from other parties: At least four MLAs of the Congress have quit the party in the past two months and three of them are now with the BJP.
Though just a UT with a single Lok Sabha MP, Puducherry is politically important particularly since the Congress has its only government in southern India here. That perhaps explains the disproportionate attention the UT has been receiving from the BJP. Most of Puducherry borders Tamil Nadu and the imprint of Dravidian parties is visible here. Yet, the UT has been ruled mostly by the Congress. Speculation is rife that Puducherry may soon witness a West Bengal kind of scenario, where legislators from different parties are flocking to the BJP ahead of elections. The BJP has been ambitious about expanding its presence in the Tamil region, which has nurtured paradigms of regionalism, federalism and social justice that, on the face of it, challenge its unitarian Hindutva agenda. It may fancy using the leverage it has by virtue of running the central government to influence the political dynamic in Puducherry. But all players must be warned, as the countdown to polls begins, they will be watched.