DMK-Cong front threatens to unseat Rangasamy

N Ramakrishnan Puducherry | Updated on January 20, 2018

Former Puducherry Chief Minister V Vaithilingam of the Congress during a door-to-door campaign in his Kamaraj Nagar constituency.

N Rangasamy, Puducherry Chief Minister and AINRC President

It was well past 8 in the evening and the whole area was dark barring the lights from the modest houses lining the streets. The streets were bumpy to say the least; there was hardly any indication that they had seen any bitumen in a while. We were told that V Vaithilingam, the likely chief minister of Puducherry if the Congress (I)-DMK alliance wins the May 16 election, was canvassing for votes in the area.

There were no loudspeakers announcing the candidate’s arrival or bursting of crackers to stir up some excitement, that one usually associates with canvassing of votes. After a lot of difficulty, we were able to get to the street where Vaithilingam was on door-to-door campaign, with a small retinue of his supporters. The 66-year-old former Chief Minister of Puducherry walked to each and every house in the area, in Kamaraj Nagar constituency from where he is contesting, smiled and handed over a pamphlet, all the while nodding without uttering a single word. It was left to a couple of his supporters to remind the people to vote for the “Hand” – symbol of the Congress (I), of which Vaithilingam is a member.

It is a multi-cornered contest in Puducherry this time for the 30-member Assembly. The Congress (I) is contesting in 21 seats and the DMK in nine; the ruling All India NR Congress has fielded candidates in 30 seats, as also the AIADMK. In the 2011 elections, the AINRC and AIADMK were allies. Besides, the PMK has posted candidates in eight seats and the People’s Welfare Front in all 30. The Congress (I)-DMK alliance is going all out to wrest power from the N Rangasamy-led AINRC.

One of the major issue is whether Puducherry should get full statehood or not. The AINRC and other parties are for statehood, while the Congress (I) wants special category status. The opposition parties accused Chief Minister N Rangasamy of being partial to only the areas where his party won from, leading to lopsided development of the Union Territory.

With a split vote, political observers say the Congress (I)-DMK alliance is slightly ahead. In 2011, the Congress (I) got 26.53 per cent of the votes polled, DMK 10.68 per cent, AINRC 31.75 per cent and AIADMK 13.75 per cent.

Talking briefly to BusinessLine, Vaithilingam was confident that the alliance will do well. There was lopsided development in Puducherry, with only the areas where the AINRC’s candidates won getting preferential treatment, he said.

Political observers say Rangasamy is a beleaguered man now. A number of his party men have jumped ship. They say Rangasamy seems to have lost his touch with the people, which was what he was known for.

Talking to autorickshaw drivers in small places, especially during elections, gives one a general idea of which way the wind is blowing. Elumalai, an auto driver and a diehard DMK supporter, is confident that the Congress (I)-DMK front will win the elections. He says Rangasamy has over-played his “simplicity” card and people are no longer willing to buy that argument. On the contrary, Kathavarayan, another auto driver and a Rangasamy supporter, anticipates a fractured mandate, thanks to which Rangasamy will somehow manage to form the government. In any case, says Kathavarayan, there will be elections again in a year or two.

Though a Rangasamy supporter, he too feels the Chief Minister has lost touch with the people. Kathavarayan blames a couple of bureaucrats for corruption and is not able to understand why Rangasamy is not acting against them.

Will Rangasamy manage to hold his own or will the Congress (I)-DMK combine manage to oust him? Wait for May 19. (EOM).

Published on May 12, 2016

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