N. Rangaswamy of AINRC waits to hear from Puducherry Lieutenant-Governor after Congress government loses trust vote in Assembly

Published : February 22, 2021 21:23 IST

Puducherry Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy coming out of the Raj Nivas after handing over his resignation to the Lt Governor on February 22. Photo: T. Singaravelou

Leader of the Opposition in the Puducherry Assembly, N. Rangasamy, AIADMK leaders and nominated MLAs addressing a press conference in the Assembely complex on February 22. Photo: T. Singaravelou

A few hours after the Bharatiya Janata Party engineered a collapse of the Congress government in Puducherry, former Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition N. Rangaswamy said that he was waiting to hear from the Lieutenant-Governor on what she and the Central government had in mind on the way forward.

“I am yet to be asked,” Rangaswamy told Frontline in an exclusive interview, when he was asked if he had been approached to form a government. The former Chief Minister, who rarely meets the media for an interview, said that he was prepared for anything and that he was discussing the various scenarios with his party seniors. “Yes, those are the two options,” he said to a question whether inviting him to form a government and imposition of President’s rule were the only options.

Rangaswamy was considering the ramifications of his decision because the choices in front of him are stark: if he does not come forward, then the mantle might fall on a new person, possibly on former PWD Minister A. Namassivayam, which will create a new set of problems for the former Chief Minister.

When the Congress government was formed in Puducherry, the 30-member House had 18 members belonging to the Congress and its ally the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). The House also has a provision to nominate three members. The Congress government, after some delay, nominated three members of its choice. But the then Lieutenant-Governor, Kiran Bedi, in consultation with the Central government, appointed three members of the BJP as the nominated members. A Supreme Court order that evoked surprise held that the three nominated MLAs could vote on certain occasions, such as during a non-confidence motion.

In a poaching drama that lasted until a day before the arrival to of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on a visit on February 17, as many as four MLAs quit the Congress. By February 21, the Congress had only nine MLAs. Besides, A. Venkatesan of the DMK, too, quit as MLA. He was quickly placed under suspension by the party. One independent MLA from Mahe supports the Congress government. “The original mistake was giving someone like Venkatesan the ticket. He was barely interested when he received the ticket. A VIP swung the ticket for him,” said a long-time observer of Puducherry politics. In all, the Congress and its allies had only 12 MLAs by February 22.

The opposition had 14 members – its tally boosted by the nominated MLAs. Lieutenant-Governor Tamilasai Soundararajan claimed in a press release that the nominated members belonged to the BJP. It was these three votes that swung the confidence vote.

After an hour-long speech in the Assembly, Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy, tendered his resignation to the Lieutenant-Governor. He vowed to fight back and ensure that the party won in the coming Assembly election. “Only elected MLAs can vote. Unfortunately, the Speaker did not accept this fact. Hence, we have tendered our resignations,” Narayanasamy said. The Congress Whip in the Assembly, Anantharaman, said that it appeared that the Speaker was acting like a BJP lackey.

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