Puducherry L-G approves choice of Pro-tem Speaker, but no date set for MLAs to take oath of office

Published : May 22, 2021 15:36 IST

K. Lakshminarayanan, who will be the Pro-tem Speaker. Photo: SAMRAJ M.

There is still no knowing when the newly elected MLAs will take the oath of office Puducherry nearly three weeks after they were declared elected. On May 21, Lieutenant-Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan approved the choice of Pro-tem Speaker, 12 days after Chief Minister N. Ramgasamy sent her the file.

The selection and approval of the Pro-tem Speaker is the first step in the process. All MLAs, including those designated as Ministers, have to take their oath in the Assembly in front of the Pro-tem Speaker. Normally, a senior MLA, regardless of party affiliation is chosen for this ceremonial role, which ends soon after the election of the Speaker.

In a tersely worded press release from Raj Nivas late on May 21, the secretary to the L-G said that the choice of Pro-tem Speaker, K. Lakshminarayanan, had been approved. But there was no word on the swearing in. Opposition political parties in the Union Territory said that they were unaware of any date for the swearing in.

Chief Minister Rangasamy, meanwhile, has remained incommunicado since reaching Puducherry on May 17 following his COVID-19 treatment in Chennai. His supporters said that he was upset over the manner in which the Bharatiya Janata Party nominated three MLAs to the Assembly (Puducherry House has three nominated MLAs) without consulting or informing him.

The Chief Minister has so far avoided phone calls, and attempts of officials in the administration to reach him via video-calling too failed as he refused to take the calls. The difference of opinion between Rangasamy’s party, NR-Congress, and the BJP began even before the Assembly election, with the BJP leadership refusing to name Rangasamy as the Chief Minister candidate.

Soon after the election, the BJP spokespersons made it clear that they would push for the post of Deputy Chief Minister plus two ministerial berths. This has caused much discomfort in the NR-Congress camp because Rangasamy wants to accommodate at least five of his supporters in the new Ministry. The negotiations over the Deputy Chief Minister’s post and the berths for the BJP has held up any forward movement. The NR-Congress has 10 MLAs in the 33-member House (including nominated MLAs). The BJP has six MLAs plus three nominated MLAs. Three independent MLAs are supporting the BJP, taking the BJP tally in the House to 12 as on May 22.

The tug-of-war happens at a time when COVID cases are at an all-time high in the Union territory. Data from May 7 (the day Rangasamy was sworn in as Chief Minister) to May 20, show that the Union Territory witnessed an unprecedented 24,838 fresh cases during the fortnight. There are nearly 18,000 active cases and as many as 1,269 people have succumbed to the affliction. In addition, the L-G told presspersons that 20 persons, including some government servants, were affected by Mucormycosis (black fungus) in the Union Territory.

In a statement, the Puducherry CPI(M) charged the administration with not taking the required steps to control the spread of COVID-19 and said that the fact that a government was yet to be formed three weeks after the results were declared was not good for democracy.

Tamilisai Soundararajan, who is still Governor of Telangana and holds additional charge of Puducherry, spends most of her time in Puducherry, reportedly at the prodding of the Central government.