Five days after Rashtrapathi Bhavan pulled the plug on Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi’s controversial tenure, her bete noire Chief Minister V Narayanasamy lost his job as well. With this, the curtains have fallen on the long-running soap opera-like feud between the two most powerful administrative positions in the Union Territory.
Since the beginning of the year, it was obvious that the Narayanasamy government was moving into the political ICU. It began with two MLAs quitting in January and joining the BJP. Last week, two more legislators bid adieu to the Congress and the House, effectively reducing the Congress government to a lameduck regime.
The deathblow was delivered when another duo — Congress MLA K Lakshminarayanan and DMK legislator Venkatesh — quit on Sunday. The Narayanasamy regime was now clearly gasping for breath, badly short of electoral oxygen supply in the Puducherry House.
Left with no choice as the Congress-led alliance now had only 11 MLAs against the Opposition’s 14, Narayanasamy staged a walkout from the Assembly before the motion seeking vote of confidence was put up for voting in the House on Monday. The chief minister proceeded to Raj Nivas and submitted his resignation to the new L-G Tamilisai Soundararajan.
And with that, the campaign for the Puducherry Assembly election — scheduled for May 2021 — began. Inside the House, Narayanasamy accused the BJP of destabilising his government and murdering democracy even as the Opposition lawmakers taunted him, asking if he was addressing a public meeting.
But even though the Congress-led government has fallen, according to indications so far, it is unlikely to be a case of Aaya (Ranga) Samy, gaya (Narayana) Samy. N Rangasamy is the former chief minister of Puducherry and now heads the Opposition.
Even though he could technically cobble together a government with the support of the AIADMK, a decision has reportedly been made to desist. Because, it would only provide ammunition to Narayanasamy to play the sympathy card in the election.
What happens next in Puducherry?
For the past four years and more, Narayanasamy has hid the inadequacies of his governance behind the interference and unilateral functioning of Kiran Bedi. If she had continued as L-G, the Congress could have fancied its chances of returning to power by targeting her as a representative of New Delhi.
Now Narayanasamy will have to answer questions about what he did and what he did not do. He may still blame it on Bedi but with a new occupant of Raj Nivas, it will fail to cut ice.
The fact that a Tamilian has been appointed as L-G, will also help the BJP to subtly play the Tamil card in the elections.
Narayanasamy’s leadership style will also come under the radar. While the official position of the Congress will be to blame it on Operation Kamala and the alleged transactional style of BJP politics, the fact remains that such a large exodus reflects poorly on Narayanasamy’s man management skills.
It also shows the Congress leadership in poor light as it was either ignorant of the crisis brewing on the southern coast or chose to turn a blind eye to it.
According to political observers, the fact that two more legislators quit within days of Rahul Gandhi visiting Puducherry to launch the election campaign shows the high command does not inspire confidence in the rank and file. It begs the question if no fire-fighting was done even when it was clear the ship was sinking.
The BJP has stuck to the script so far, having perfected it after similar experiments in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. The Congress MLAs who were nudged to quit will most likely now contest election on a BJP ticket, a move that only enables the party to spread its footprint in the Union Territory.
If the BJP manages to win even a couple of seats, it could become a kingmaker if Puducherry returns a hung assembly after the election.
What should worry the Congress is that one of the DMK legislators also quit the assembly. If it was done with the concurrence of DMK chief MK Stalin, it does not augur well for the DMK-Congress relationship in Tamil Nadu, more so when seat-sharing talks are scheduled for this week in Chennai.
Puducherry is a small Union Territory but it is its geographical location that makes it so significant. Located so close to Tamil Nadu and having one part, Mahe near Kerala and another part, Yanam next to Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry is uniquely positioned as a pan-South Indian political unit.
The fall of the Congress government will also give bragging rights to the detractors of the Congress. That South India is now Congress-mukt unless the grand old party can now make a comeback in Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu in the assembly elections.
Source – India Today