Pondicherry Assembly elections 2021 | The Congressional government was strewn with fault lines, which led to its downfall: Rangasamy

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Will keep pushing for statehood for Pondicherry, the former chief minister said.

With the reputation of being a simple man who, as Chief Minister of Pondicherry, would be seen riding his favorite motorbike or having a cup of tea at a roadside stall, N. Rangasamy is credited several well-being measures during its first visit (2001-2006 and 2006-08). After being forced to resign in 2008, he started the All India NR Congress (AINRC) and returned to power in 2011. The man, who was given nicknames such as Junior Kamaraj and ‘Makkal Mudhalvar’ (chief minister of the People) contests in two seats – his Thattanchavady stronghold as well as the Yanam enclave – and is also the spearhead of the National Democratic Alliance, comprising the BJP, AIADMK and PMK. While the NDA refused to nominate a candidate for the post of chief minister, the AINRC unequivocally declared Mr. Rangasamy as chief minister “for a record fourth term” if the NDA came to power.

Extracts:

There was a long delay before AINRC officially announced its decision to join the NDA. The apparent coverage of the ad even sparked speculation that you could go it alone. Have you hesitated at any point in aligning yourself with the NDA? What ultimately led to the decision to join the alliance for the Assembly elections?

We joined the NDA without hesitation. This is not the first time that we have faced an election together. We allied ourselves with the BJP / NDA in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019, as well as Kamaraj Nagar [the 2019 byelection].

Of course, there were negotiations from all sides during the seat-sharing talks but other than that, we happily aligned with the NDA. We are confident that the NDA will win the majority of seats in the April 6 elections.

After the fall of the Congress-DMK government on February 22 following a series of defections, do you think the rival alliance will play the victims card to its advantage by alleging that the government has been overthrown by the BJP and partners in the NDA?

I don’t think so, after what happened. No government can survive if it fails to keep its herds together. The Congressional government was in so many loopholes and was such a failure on many fronts that its downfall was inevitable … the party. In the process, the strength of the treasury bank collapsed, making the government’s hold on power untenable. We had nothing to do with it. As the opposition, we have fulfilled our duty to seek a vote of confidence.

How do you react to fears that the Centre’s control over three designated MPs could be turned into a weapon for or against a government in the future?

The practice of appointing deputies has a long tradition. In my day, it was a convention for the chief minister to recommend names and have them approved by the Home Office. This the previous government failed to do.

And, in terms of the stability of a government that is not politically aligned with the Center?

We are allies of the BJP, which reigns in the Center … I am convinced that if we come to power, we will be able to run the government effectively and serve the people of Pondicherry well.

You criticized former chief minister V. Narayanasamy for his constant confrontation with the lieutenant governor and the center, which ultimately resulted in the blocking of several welfare programs and important decisions. Considering that you too, as Chief Minister during the 2011-16 term, had feuds with the then LG Virendra Kataria, what is your view of navigating this duality of power centers?

The Chief Minister must be clear about his powers … at least he must be aware of the limits and limits of his agency, especially since Pondicherry as a territory of the Union depends directly on the Center. If a file is blocked at Raj Nivas, what prevents a chief minister from going the extra mile and having a discussion [with the L-G] and present a convincing case for the approval of a proposal.

It is entirely on Mr. Narayanasamy that the disputes that would normally have been negotiated [between the government and the Raj Nivas] were brought to the level of the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the lieutenant governor and the center, whether it was to maintain the DBT instead of the distribution of rice or the appointment of deputies.

It seems that the state is the only path to greater autonomy for Pondicherry. You even mentioned the idea that political parties boycott the election as a means of pressure to achieve the goal. Is there a better chance that Pondicherry will get statehood if the NDA wins as it will be in power here and in the Center as well?

We will persist in claiming a state. With our ally, the BJP at the Center, I think the path to the state can be less cumbersome.

Finally, given the unique identity of Pondicherry as a city of Franco-Tamil confluence, its liberal outlook and its lively nightlife … which make it a privileged destination for tourists … Is there anything to fear among certain sections that all these attributes could be threatened by marginal elements advancing a radically traditionalist vision?

As a regional party deeply aware and sensitive to the aspirations of the population, we will be unshakeable in our commitment to preserve the cultural identity of Pondicherry. There is no room for worrying about the subjugation of Pondicherry’s identity in any way.


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