Assembly Elections: Puducherry

Consolation prize

Print edition : June 10, 2016

IT is some consolation for the Congress that after it failed to retain power in Assam and Kerala, it has been elected to form the government in the Union Territory of Puducherry. The Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) had formed an electoral alliance with the sole aim of defeating the ruling All India N. Rangasamy Congress (AINRC).

The Puducherry Assembly has 30 seats. While the Congress, which contested in 21 constituencies, won 15, the DMK won two of the nine seats it contested. It is sweet revenge for the Congress: Rangasamy broke away from the Congress a few weeks before the Assembly elections were scheduled in 2011 and founded the AINRC.

The AINRC won only eight of the 30 seats it contested. Rangasamy retained his Indira Nagar seat, but his Ministers P. Rajavelu, N.G. Panneerselvam, T. Thiagarajan and P.R. Siva and the Assembly Speaker, V. Sabapathy, were defeated. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) won four seats. An independent candidate, V. Ramachandran, supported by the Left parties, defeated the Congress veteran and six-time legislator, E. Valsaraj, in Mahe.

The Congress-DMK can find solace in the victory in Puducherry as the alliance narrowly missed capturing power in neighbouring Tamil Nadu. It is necessarily a coalition government in Puducherry as the Congress needs the support of the two DMK legislators to form the government.

The odds are in favour of A. Namasivayam, president of the Puducherry Pradesh Congress Committee, who got re-elected from Villianur, to become the Chief Minister.

But V. Narayanasamy, former Union Minister and veteran Congress leader who is considered close to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, may take a shot at the post. What brought down the Rangasamy government was the anti-incumbency sentiment that swept through the former French colony, which has enclaves in Karaikal, Yanam and Mahe on the Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala coasts respectively. There was widespread dissatisfaction against the Rangasamy government over its handling of the law and order situation, its inability to curb rowdyism, its decision to increase value-added tax and excise duty on liquor and close down textile mills and industries, which resulted in loss of jobs.

The Chief Minister was criticised for pampering his constituency at the expense of other constituencies and for his excessive reliance on divine intervention before taking important decisions. Employees of government-owned undertakings did not receive their salaries on time. Namasivayam and Narayanasamy ran a spirited campaign against the AINRC government, accusing it of inaction and non-performance and pauperising the Union Territory ( Frontline, May 27).

As in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry witnessed a multi-cornered contest in the May 16 election. The formations included the AINRC, the Congress-DMK alliance, the AIADMK, the Desiya Murpokku Dravidar Kazhagam-People’s Welfare Front alliance, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Pattali Makkal Katchi which fielded its candidates in 28 constituencies. In the DMDK-PWF, the DMDK tested its fortunes in six constituencies, the Communist Party of India (CPI) in eight, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi in seven, and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in four each. One seat was allotted to the Revolutionary Socialist Party of India. The Union Territory recorded a high polling percentage of more than 80.

T.S. Subramanian