Tight race

Print edition : May 22, 2009

CAMPAIGNING is in full swing in the Union Territory of Puducherry for the election to its lone Lok Sabha seat on May 13. Union Minister of State for Planning and Parliamentary Affairs and Rajya Sabha member V. Narayanasamy is the Congress candidate. He faces a tough fight from M. Ramadass of the PMK, who is seeking re-election in a multi-cornered contest. Other parties in the fray include the BJP, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the DMDK.

While the Congress is in alliance with the DMK, the PMK is a constituent of the front led by the AIADMK. Narayanasamy is fighting for a Lok Sabha seat for the first time. If 30 years of experience in politics is the strength of Narayanasamy, a postgraduate in law, Ramadass, 59, a former university professor who holds a doctorate in economics, relies mostly on his impressive performance in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress has enjoyed a predominant position in Puducherry ever since this territory, which was under French control, was merged with the Union of India in the late 1950s. Of the 13 elections held for the Puducherry seat since 1993, the Congress has won nine. The AIADMK won the seat in 1974 and 1977, the DMK in 1998 and the PMK in 2004. The PMK was a constituent of the DMK-led alliance along with the Congress in 2004.

Neither the DMK nor the AIADMK enjoys popular support in Puducherry. The Congress unit, which is better placed than its Tamil Nadu counterpart, has expressed its resentment to the party high command over the arrangement that facilitates the Tamil Nadu unit of the party to decide the electoral alliance in Puducherry.

The AIADMK, which entered the Puducherry poll scene in 1974 with a bang and won two successive elections, began losing ground when its founder-leader and former Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran supported a proposal to merge the Union Territory with Tamil Nadu. The DMK has not been able to make any big inroads into Puducherry politics though it is believed to have an edge over the AIADMK in the Union Territory. So, an AIADMK-led alliance considered formidable in Tamil Nadu need not necessarily be so in Puducherry.

The PMK, which has forged a new alliance this time, hopes to benefit from the anti-incumbency factor working against the Congress, and the disunity among Congressmen. Factionalism in the Congress had disrupted the administration for about eight months and it ultimately pulled down the Ministry, led by N. Rangasamy. Two weeks after the filing of nominations, the popular ex-Chief Minister, who has been keeping a low profile since his ouster in 2008, remained apparently undecided on his support to the party candidate.

The supporters of the AIADMK-led front hope that the governments failure in many areas such as education, public health, housing, development, reopening of closed mills, and welfare schemes for the underprivileged, besides the charges of corruption against it, will go against the Congress in spite of the additional support it could enlist from the Puducherry Munnetra Congress, a regional party founded by former Assembly Speaker and former Congressman P. Kannan.

S. Viswanathan

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