Puducherry all set for a three-cornered fight

Vasanth Srinivasan Chennai | Updated on March 28, 2019

AINRC candidate K Narayanasamy being greeted by Union Railway Minister Piyush Goya at the meeting of BJP workers in Puducherry. In 2014, the AINRC became the first regional party in Puducherry to win a Lok Sabha seat   -  The Hindu

The lone Lok Sabha constituency in Puducherry looks set for a three-cornered contest. The main draw for this seat currently features V Vaithilingam (Congress), K Narayanaswamy (All India NR Congress [AINRC]) and MAS Subramanian (representing actor Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam). While Vaithilingam resigned as the Speaker of the Puducherry Assembly to throw his hat into the ring — he had also been the Chief Minister of the Union Territory twice and the Leader of the Opposition once — Subramanian is a three-time legislator who switched over from the DMK recently. Narayanasamy, a doctor by profession, is a relative newcomer whose family runs the Manakula Vinayagar group of educational institutions.

Tamilmaran, the AMMK’s candidate, is also expected to reap the benefit of TTV Dhinakaran’s campaign in TN.

The Congress, which has extended its alliance with the DMK in TN to Puducherry, seems to have had a head start by going in with Vaithilingam, a veteran from the small but politically influential Reddiar community. On the other hand, the Opposition AINRC’s choice of candidate has caused disquiet, even within party circles.

Said a leader who does not want to be named: “RR (R Radhakrishnan, the party’s winning candidate in 2014) was a good candidate. Even if the leadership is unhappy with him (reports of a running feud between him and NR Congress chief and former CM N Rangasamy have been doing the rounds for quite some time now), it could have picked another senior leader. But by choosing Narayanasamy, a message has been sent out that only money and family ties (Narayanasamy’s uncle is currently an MLA representing AINRC) count.”

Vanniyars as vote bank

By going with Narayanasamy, the AINRC, which has been allotted the seat by the AIADMK-led alliance that includes the BJP, seems to be banking on the powerful Vanniyar community that accounts for nearly 43 per cent of the UT’s population. But this won’t work, said RKR Anantharaman, a Congress MLA belonging to the Vanniyar community: “For one, Vanniyars are spread across parties. Plus, people like me and Namassivayam (PCC chief and PWD Minister hailing from the community) are this side. Also, by leaning back on the ‘Vanniyar factor’, they have opened the door for consolidation of other communities. And keep in mind that even with the ‘Modi wave’ last time, they just got around 60,000 votes more. This time, there is a negative wave. And anyway, Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam voters will not vote for an ally of the BJP.”

Vaithilingam said his experience and understanding of issues are his strengths. “The UT is suffering because of excessive interference from the Centre. While our financial burden has increased over the years because of the various decisions of the Centre, including the pay hike as part of the Pay Commission recommendations, our financial resources and powers have been taken away gradually. I will fight for administrative reforms with a human touch.” In fact, supporters of the former CM openly say that he will make it to the Union Cabinet if the Congress comes back to power given his experience and acumen.

Subramanian, however, blames both the Congress and the AINRC for Puducherry’s woes. “What the Congress did to Rangasamy when he was the CM through Kataria (the Governor), the BJP is doing to Narayanasamy (the present CM) now through Kiran Bedi. These people... Narayanasamy and Rangasamy... have pushed the UT, once the favourite child of the Centre, into a debt trap. If elected, I will see to that Puducherry’s debt is waived and it is given statehood.”

Published on March 28, 2019

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