The first National Democratic Alliance government of the Union Territory of Puducherry sworn in on 27 June, almost two months after the Assembly election results were declared, is essentially a government of the All-India NR Congress (AINRC) led by N Rangasamy in which the Bharatiya Janata Party is a junior partner.
The BJP tried its best to have its way in the formation of the Council of Ministers and the distribution of portfolios, but Rangasamy had his way. Puducherry had remained a Congress bastion for long. The AINRCAIADMK alliance (the BJP was an ally of the AIADMK) emerged victorious in the April election.
Rangasamy was the Congress Chief Minister of Puducherry between 2001 and 2006 and from 2006 to 2008 when the party high command asked him to step down to install one of its favourites as Chief Minister. Rangasamy floated his own AINR Congress and returned as Chief Minister in 2011.
Puducherry, a former French colony, was the BJP’s dream project for gaining a toe-hold in the south for the NDA. Having poached the Congress unit of the Union Territory, the BJP won six seats in the 30-member Assembly. The AINRC won 10 seats. The BJP demanded creation of the post of deputy chief minister to accommodate one of its MLAs who was promised the chief ministership.
It was rejected outright by Rangasamy who offered two Cabinet berths and the speakership to the BJP. This is Rangasamy’s fourth term as Puducherry Chief Minister. Even after a week of the swearing-in of the Council of Ministers, portfolio allocation cannot be completed as the two BJP Ministers are insisting on lucrative portfolios.
Although the BJP has tasted power for the first time in Puducherry, the ride ahead is not going to be smooth. The election manifestos of the BJP and the AINRC are diametrically opposite in certain key areas. The AINRC demands statehood for Puducherry. The BJP is opposed to it. The AINRC does not share the BJP’s enthusiasm to implement Hindi. It Is on the same page as the DMK in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
Puducherry’s budget for 2020-21 does not leave much scope to implement the manifold social welfare measures the two parties promised in their respective manifestos. The Union Territory desperately needs a legislative assembly-cum secretariat complex.
The Assembly now functions from the heritage public square built by the French colonial rulers which include, among other things, the Raj Nivas where the Lt Governor resides, the French Consulate and the Chamber of Commerce.
Embalam R Selvam, the BJP MLA elected as Speaker of the Assembly, along with his party MLAs visited Delhi and called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi pleading for a new secretariat complex. They have not received a positive response except for an opportunity to be photographed with the Prime Minister who tweeted, “Met a delegation of MLAs from Puducherry. Discussed the various efforts for Puducherry’s all-round development.”
Even if the new Council of Ministers is unable to commit itself to any of their grandiose schemes, it should at least ensure the existing welfare measures are continued.