Congressional government in Pondicherry slips into minority ahead of polls

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Congress ends up with 11 MPs, leaving V Narayanasamy government short of majority

New Delhi:

Months before an election, the congressional government lost its slim majority in Pondicherry with four MPs resigning since last month, two in the past two days.

Of the 30 deputies elected to the Assembly, the Congress had 15 members and, together with the three and an independent member of the DMK, just passed the 16 mark.

After the resignations, the government and the opposition are both at 14. Congress has 10 members, leaving the V Narayanasamy government a little behind the majority, which is now 15, with the strength of the assembly falling to 28.

The outings are embarrassing for the Congress just before Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Pondicherry tomorrow to prepare the electoral strategy. This is his first visit since the party took power in Union territory.

Congress has traditionally enjoyed a strong grip on Pondicherry, but this time it has faced rumblings over Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, who was reportedly parachuted after the 2016 elections. party were irritated by his style of operation and his endless feud with Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi.

Two of the MPs – A Namassivayam and E.Theeppainjan – resigned on January 25. Both joined the BJP. On Monday, Malladi Krishna Rao resigned and today John Kumar resigned as an MP. Another congressman, N. Dhanavelou, was disqualified for alleged anti-party activity last year.

“The situation is fluid,” Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi told NDTV amid talks about a show of force in the assembly.

Malladi Krishna Rao’s decision was surprising as he had accompanied the chief minister last week when he traveled to Delhi to lobby for the removal of Kiran Bedi as lieutenant governor.

Mr. Namassivayam’s move to BJP was a big blow to Congress; the former head of the State Congress had played a big role in consolidating the party’s base in Pondicherry. Along with him, several other congressional leaders and officials stepped out in January and switched to BJP, a well-worn scenario that has played out in several states where defections have toppled governments.

Mr. Namassivayam’s last years in Congress have been one of disappointment.

During the state’s 2016 election campaign, he had been widely touted to be chief minister, but the post went to Mr Narayanasamy, a foreigner who did not even challenge the polls. His anguish increased when the post of head of the Pondicherry Congress went to AV Subramanian.

Sources say Mr Narayanasamy is unlikely to be the face of the party in the next election.

Leaders of the BJP, which has never been very present in Pondicherry, said Congress imports would significantly strengthen the party in the polls. The ruling party has tried to improve its footprint in the south by bringing in strong leaders from rival parties.

Elections are scheduled by May in Pondicherry and neighboring Tamil Nadu, in addition to Kerala, West Bengal and Assam. The BJP isn’t expecting much from Tamil Nadu and Kerala at this point, but the party has better luck in Pondicherry, with a considerably weakened Congress.

Congress won 15 assembly seats in the 2016 polls, including that of the Speaker. He took power with the support of the DMK and an independent. The AIADMK opposition has four deputies, the AINRC has seven and there are three appointed members of the BJP.


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