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Puducherry: NDA’s Nouveau Breakthrough in the South

Puducherry was the last Congress bastion in the South until earlier this year, when a spate of resignations led to the fall of the V. Narayanasamy-led government. These Vidhan Sabha elections the Congress hoped to regain its foothold, while the ‘All India NR Congress’ aimed to ride the anti-incumbency wave and come back to power. In 2016, Congress had won the election with 15 seats, defeating the All India NR Congress (AINRC) which could bag only 8 seats. For AINRC, it was a massive letdown, as it had won 15 seats in the 2011 assembly elections. In the 2016 elections, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) won two seats while the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) won four. During 2016-2021, the BJP had only three nominated legislators.

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This time around, the Union Territory presented BJP with its best chance of governing in the South, where it has as yet been unable to move beyond Karnataka. It therefore allied with AINRC leader and former Chief Minister, N Rangaswamy, who is much lauded by the UT’s general public for his simple demeanour. AIADMK was the third partner to this triumvirate, and the alliance was only bolstered by the resignations in Congress and DMK that brought down the V. Narayanasamy government just ahead of the polls. Congress and DMK faced a tough task as the allies were unable to hold onto their flock. With Congress on a sticky wicket, the opposition was banking on the local credentials of Rangaswamy to win.

Puducherry witnessed a voter turnout of 81.70%, with 'none of the above' or 'NOTA' option having very few takers. According to data available on the Election Commission website, only 1.30 percent or 9,006 of the total people who voted used the option.

The 30-seat assembly went into vote on April 6th, 8 AM, and was concluded on May 2nd. While the AINRC, which contested in 16 seats won 10 as of Sunday night, the BJP which contested in nine seats, emerged victorious in four seats, opening its account in the Puducherry House for the first time through the NDA alliance.

From the UPA alliance, DMK has bagged 6 seats, while Congress is now in possession of 2 seats. Besides these, Independents have won the remaining 6 seats.

The Election Commission, thus, declared victory of the NDA alliance in the Union Territory.

Former Chief Minister and AINRC chief, N. Rangasamy, who contested two seats, could manage to win only in his traditional constituency of Thattanchavady defeating CPI nominee K Sethu Selvam by a margin of 5,456 votes. He lost to Independent candidate Gollapalli Srinivas Ashok by a margin of 2,183 votes in the second seat of Yanam. Two defectors from Congress KSP Ramesh and V. Aroumougame won the Kadirkamam and Indira Nagar constituencies respectively for the AINRC.

The BJP made major electoral gains with Congress turncoats, winning three seats and leading in another constituency. A. Namassivayam, who quit V. Narayanasamy’s government, led the Congress cabinet ahead of the elections and won the Mannadipet constituency. He defeated DMK’s A.K Kumar by a margin of 2750 votes.

Another defector from Congress to BJP before announcement of the Assembly polls, A. John Kumar, retained his Kamaraj Nagar constituency. He trounced former Congress Minister M.O.H.F Shahjahan by 7229 votes. His son, Richard John Kumar, who joined the Saffron party along with him, won the Nellithope constituency by defeating DMK’s V. Karthikeyan by 496 votes.

Earlier this year, in March, Mr. Rangasamy had convened a meeting of party legislators, former ministers, ex-board chairpersons, and other important functionaries on Tuesday night to elicit their views on the electoral stand to be adopted with BJP. “I am consulting our legislators and party workers. I will tell you later,” was his reply, refusing to comment on his party’s position on continuing their alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party in the upcoming polls.

According to the Economic Times, voters felt let down when the NDA did not announce him as the CM candidate. It strengthened the suspicion that BJP may want someone with ‘leanings towards it’ as CM. Nirmal Kumar Surana, in-charge of Puducherry BJP, had said, “don’t confuse leadership with chief ministership. We are facing elections under the chairmanship of the very experienced Rangasamy.” Analysts are not sure if Rangasamy will be a puppet in BJP’s hands.


By Anupa Paulchaudhury

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