The Congress was once again unable to hold itself together and give a fitting reply to the concerted attacks from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which were clearly aimed at toppling the elected Congress government.
In Puducherry, the dwindling of Congress MLAs, from 15 to 10 in a matter of one and a half months again exposed the Congress’ ideological bankruptcy. The MLAs clearly had more to gain from joining the BJP than sticking with the Congress. This raises questions about what kept them with the Congress all this time that they are ready to shift to a far-right party overnight.
It also reveals Congress’ lack of strategy and foresight, even though the BJP has been playing the same cards in state after state.
CONGRESS UNDERESTIMATES THE BJP
Congress MLA K Lakshminarayanan and alliance partner DMK's K Venkatesan resigned on February 21, tilting the majority to the NR Congress-led faction in the assembly. Earlier, it was a tie situation of 14:14 for both the sides.
If the floor was put to test without these two resignations, the speaker would have voted to break the tie, and the Congress would have retained its government. But, the last minute resignations proved otherwise, and two months before the assembly elections, Chief Minister V Narayanasamy submitted his resignation dissolving the government.
As soon as a tie situation was reached on February 18, the leader of opposition, N. Rangasamy had asked V Narayanasamy to resign as CM. But Narayanasamy refused stating that he can prove majority if a floor test was conducted. Narayanasamy and the Congress should have foreseen the last minute resignations.
The fact that the LG Tamilisai Soundararajan, who is an ardent BJP face, asked the Congress to prove its majority through a floor test the very day she took oath, should have rung bells in the Congress. It should have realised that the BJP had a plan in hand and was not going to let the Congress win through a tiebreaker after all its concerted effort to topple the Congress government.
After submitting his resignation, Narayanasamy said, “BJP has been implementing this agenda of toppling elected governments, whether it is Congress’ elected government or not. They succeeded in Arunachal Pradesh to lure the MLAs. In Manipur, they lured the MLAs as well; in Goa, they purchased the MLAs. In Karnataka, toppling the government by luring the MLAs. In Madhya Pradesh, dividing the congress party. This has been their game-plan. They implemented it in Puducherry also.”
If there was so much clarity, why is the Congress unable to prevent such situations?
EASILY INTIMIDATED CONGRESS MLAs
The BJP is a weak party in the union territory; it lost the 2016 assembly elections so badly that it did not even get its deposits back. Yet, two Congress MLAs shifted to the BJP, and two others have not yet officially joined but extended support.
However, the BJP is powerful at the Centre, and it has enormous resources heavily funded by the corporates, as per the reports filed by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).
A Namassivayam, the first MLA to quit the Congress and join the BJP in mid-January, was already upset that the Congress chose Narayanasamy over him as the CM candidate in 2016. Since then he has had feuds with the party and the CM.
Moreover, he has a lot of corruption charges against him, and joining the BJP is a means to absolve himself of all those charges.
A long-time Puducherry resident anonymously told Newsclick, “The BJP has been able to use the carrot and stick policy well and made sure the Congress MLAs are taken away. Once they come into the fold of the ruling party in the Centre, they know they can evade ED raids, etc.”
The BJP leader Swaminathan earlier led a targeted attack against Namassivayam for his corruption charges. This continued up until a week before Namasivayam shifted to the BJP. But now, Swaminathan is quiet about him. Namasivayam is no longer considered corrupt and is upheld as a pure soul for choosing the BJP over Congress.
This is a clear case of intimidation by the BJP, which it uses as a strategy all over the country.
But the scenario also reveals much about the Congress and its MLAs, who are actually corrupt, and fear that the BJP would expose them. On the other hand, they have much to gain from shifting to the BJP.
Notably, Namassivayam was earlier the President of the Puducherry Pradesh Congress Committee and was suspended from the Congress for his anti-party activities on January 25.
“Congress MLAs are behaving like rats running off a sinking ship, and it shows that they hold self interest above all else,” said a Puducherry resident.
Referring to the MLAs who quit the Congress recently, another Puducherry resident said, “All these Congress MLAs would have done something corrupt, not supporting Congress in the right moment is their way of not getting exposed. They have been blackmailed by the BJP.”
CONGRESS NEEDS TO STRENGTHEN ITSELF
Puducherry has been a stronghold of the Congress for decades. The recent happenings in Puducherry, and other states, prove the lack of ideology and vision, and it is a pathetic scenario for the party.
Yet, the truth of the matter is that, besides all the resignations from Congress MLAs, the NR Congress and BJP had the majority only with the votes of nominated MLAs from the Centre. Without those votes, the NR-Congress would have garnered the support of only eleven MLAs, one less than what the Congress got.
With only two months for the assembly elections, Puducherry is likely heading to President’s rule. With the help of former LG Kiran Bedi, the Centre exerted full power onto the UT. Now, with the President's rule during elections, the BJP would attempt to use all its machinery to sweep the polls. If the Congress continues to be unable to distinguish itself from the BJP, it would further weaken itself in the coming days.