The new Chief Minister of Puducherry, who was sworn in on May 6, is yet to have a council of ministers. The delay in agreeing to the demands of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the ministerial berths is said to be behind the delay. The brawl over lucrative berths continues between the BJP and All India NR Congress (AINRC), even though CM N Rangasamy remains defiant in spite of pressure from both inside and outside his party.
The AINRC leadership and the legislators are reportedly unhappy with the attitude of the BJP leadership, which ensured the nomination of three BJP supporters to the Assembly of the union territory (UT) even before the elected representatives were sworn in.
With the decision to concede the Speaker post to the BJP, the NR Congress has handed over an early advantage to its alliance partner.
The lack of the council of ministers has left the state without a leadership, which is suffering from loss of income and funds from the Union government.
BJP SINGLE LARGEST PARTY IN PUDUCHERRY
The BJP was bargaining for the post of the deputy chief minister, two cabinet ministers and the office of the speaker. The Puducherry union territory can have six ministers including the CM.
The AINRC, after vehemently denying the post of the deputy chief minister to the BJP, decided to concede the post of the speaker to the party. This move is being considered as a tactical success for the BJP. The BJP won six seats in the elections and has the support of the three independent legislators. With the Union Home ministry ensuring the nomination of three BJP leaders to the house, the strength of the BJP has increased to 12, making it the single largest party in the 33 member house.
A senior journalist following the developments in Puducherry, on the condition of anonymity said, “The BJP getting the speaker’s post has given the party a huge advantage. The relation between BJP and AINRC right from the time of becoming alliance partners are not smooth. In the event of the alliance getting broken, the BJP will have a huge advantage with the speaker on their side and the support of the Union government”.
With the BJP’s track record of splitting parties, including alliance partners, the AINRC could also face a similar situation in the UT.
ALL NOT WELL IN THE ALLIANCE
The friction between the AINRC and the BJP prevailed since the two parties decided to stitch an alliance. The BJP was initially reluctant to announce N Rangasamy as the CM candidate of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
“Nothing has changed even after the elections. The AINRC was unhappy when the Union government announced the nomination of three members to the house when the CM was admitted in Chennai for COVID-19 treatment. The displeasure in the AINRC camp increased further with the BJP demanding more in the government formation”, the journalist added.
On the question of the future of the alliance, the journalist replied, “Rangasamy has managed to capture power for now. If the friction between the two continues, the possibility of the government falling is high. With the tag of the single largest party in the House, the BJP will have a huge advantage. But the CM has kept the options open for allying with DMK and Congress.”
The DMK and Congress have six and two MLAs respectively, while the AINRC has reportedly won over the support of 2 independent MLAs, “But the CM and the MLAs are yet to announce this development fearing backlash from the BJP camp,” the journalist added.
HEALTH WORKERS, VOLUNTEERS FIGHT PANDEMIC
CM N Rangasamy, after recovering from COVID-19 infection, has by and large remained inaccessible.
“Apart from looking into revenue files, the CM has remained indoors in spite of the developments in the state. He has not said anything on the formation of the cabinet. Even the AINRC legislators are in the dark about the developments,’ the journalist said.
The COVID-19 cases have reduced, thanks to the lockdown imposed in the UT. However, the support of the government is largely lacking in the fight against the pandemic.
The role of volunteers in telescreening and several aspects of COVID-19 monitoring is being hailed in the absence of the intervention of the government.
DYFI, SFI and Medical College Students working as Volunteers in Telescreening honoured by the Health Secretary Dr Arun IAS and Special Secretary Mr Vikrant Raja IAS in Covid War Room
“The CM and a couple of sitting and former MLAs got treated in Chennai for the COVID-19 infection. This shows the lapse in governance in the fight against the pandemic, when the UT has a renowned hospital like JIPMER,” the journalist alleged.
On the role of the CM and other MLAs in the pandemic, the journalist said, “During the previous regime, V Narayanasamy and health minister used to visit the hospitals, they spoke to the patients and checked the requirements. But nothing is happening now”.
WHAT IS IN STAKE FOR NEW GOVT?
The UT relies largely on the excise duty from sale of liquor and commercial taxes for the revenue. The government usually receives Rs 900 crores annually from excise duty.
“With the lockdown in place during most of the last one year, income has choked. Since most of the establishments were closed during this period. The income from commercial taxes has also reduced. The GST due from the Union government is also pending for a long period,” the journalist said.
The government has a huge task of filling the deficit, since the expenditure for the government has increased due to several reasons, including the pandemic.
“The CM will have his task cut out in getting the funds from the Union government, irrespective of his continuance in the NDA. He may have to concede to further demands of the BJP leadership to achieve the basic requirements or else walk out of the alliance and take on a political battle subsequently,” the journalist said.