Crisis in Puducherry ahead of elections

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Puducherry: The Congress government in the Union territory of Puducherry lost its majority with another ruling party legislator resigning on Tuesday, reducing the numbers of the party-led alliance to 14 in the assembly with an effective strength of 28.

Seizing on the opportunity, the Opposition, which also has 14 MLAs in the 33-member House, demanded the resignation of Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, saying his government was in minority.

However, Narayanasamy rejected the demand, claiming that his government continued to enjoy ‘majority’ in the assembly, which is set to go to polls in the next few months.

Congress MLA A John Kumar resigned from his MLA post and the party on Tuesday, becoming the fourth legislator to quit the assembly since last month, dealing a blow ahead of the elections.

With Kumar’s resignation, the strength of the Congress in the assembly has decreased to ten including Speaker. Its ally DMK has three members and an independent also supports the government. The simple majority in the assembly with the reduced strength is 15. Polls are likely in April and the House’s term ends on June 8.

The development came a day ahead of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the Union territory to launch the party’s campaign. The party position in the assembly as of Tuesday: Congress (ten), DMK three, All-India NR Congress seven, AIADMK four, BJP three (all nominated and have voting rights) and one independent.

Four Congress MLAs have resigned, while one member had been disqualified.

“I have resigned from the party as well. I am sending the letter to Puducherry Congress Committee chief AV Subramanian,” Kumar, a confidante of Narayanasamy and who was elected from the Kamaraj Nagar segment in 2019 bypoll, said.

Party sources indicated that Kumar is likely to join the BJP, seen as a repeat of what is happening in West Bengal with the Trinamool Congress, though not on a similar scale here.

Last month, addressing a poll rally here, BJP national chief J P Nadda slammed the Congress for alleged rampant corruption and vowed to capture power in the Union territory by winning 23 plus seats out of the 30.

The exodus of Congress MLAs started with the resignation of then Minister A Namassivayam and E Theeppainjan last month with the two later joining the BJP. Malladi Krishna Rao, also a minister, resigned from the government and also as MLA on Monday.

Another Congress MLA N Dhanavelou was disqualified for alleged anti-party activities in July last year.

Namassivayam had mounted a scathing attack on Narayanasamy, accusing him of suppressing senior leaders.

Leader of the Opposition in the assembly N Rangasamy, who floated the AINRC after breaking away from the Congress in 2011, on Tuesday demanded the resignation of the Narayanasamy ministry.

“The government has lost its majority in the wake of resignations of legislators of ruling party. Chief Minister should quit office voluntarily owning moral responsibility,” he told reporters here.

Narayanasamy, meanwhile, claimed his government ‘has majority’ in the House. “All our legislators are united. The demand of the Opposition for government’s resignation is not genuine…We will function in consonance with the provisions of the Constitution,” he told the media.

Flanked by AIADMK and BJP leaders, (the two parties were AINRC’s allies during previous polls), Rangasamy said if the government did not resign, his party would take forward its action plan to press for its ouster.

AIADMK legislature party leader A Anbalagan said he concurred with Rangasamy and said the Chief Minister should quit without any further loss of time.

John Kumar called on Speaker V P Sivakolundhu at his office and handed over his handwritten letter of resignation. The Speaker has accepted the resignations of Kumar and Rao, sources in the assembly said.

The Congress had won 15 assembly seats in the 2016 polls.