Sharique N Siddiquie
Puducherry is a small union territory situated in southern part of India with four non-contiguous enclaves, Pondicherry, Karaikal, Yanam and Mahé. The former French colony is although a very calm place famous for its tourism industry, the politics here is no different than any other south Indian state.
The major political players are Congress, DMK, AIADMK, MDMK and the recently launched All India NR Congress founded by former CM and ex-Congress strongman N Rangaswamy. Along with them the PMC, PMK and CPI also have a little support base in this Union Territory.
As we go on to discuss the various issues that might have an impact on the outcome of the Assembly Polls, one thing needs to be cleared and that is, Puducherry is a state which has witnessed political parties aligning at the cost of breaking their ideological barriers.
The major issues on which the electorate in Puducherry will decide the future course of politics in the Union Territory are:
Stability is going to be one of the most important issues in this election. Puducherry has seen a change in state leadership in the middle of the 12th Assembly tenure when senior Congress leader and the then CM, N Rangaswamy, was asked by the Congress leadership to resign due to the internal politics of the party and current CM V Vaithilingam was brought in his place.
Though Congress and DMK are in an alliance, the tussle for power between the two political parties is not a hidden fact. With 2G scam making waves and the tussle in Tamil Nadu out in the open, voters will have a rethink about voting them to power over stability issue.
Puducherry is a Union Territory with one of the highest levels of quality of life in the country with excellent physical infrastructure and almost a hundred per cent literacy level. The demand for statehood in Puducherry is not new.
Puducherry is a Union Territory with its own legislatures and Chief Minister, but it is not yet a full state. A plea for full statehood has been passed by the legislative assembly of Puducherry but the Central government is yet to decide on the issue.
With Congress at the helm in Centre, the demand for a complete statehood could as well become an important poll plank which might help Congress in securing vote.
This is a contentious issue which might help Congress in Puducherry. There are long standing demands by the Muslims and Christians for reservation.
With Social Welfare Minister M Kandasamy taking steps to provide reservation for minorities in the Union Territory, the issue is bound to help Congress.
The Congress Split
This could be one factor that might go against Congress in the Union Territory. With Vaiko led-MDMK deciding not to fight in the state and former CM N Rangaswamy launching his own All India NR Congress, Congress wave might just have to face some hurdles.
The former Chief Minister, hurt by his unceremonious exit from the top seat in state, is in no mood to forgive his parent party and looking at his clout in the UT, a severe in dent in Congress’ support looks highly imminent.
It remains to be seen how Congress deals with this.
As the Union Territory of Puducherry goes into polls, the story might now be as interesting as its other neighbours are also following suit, the tussle between Congress and DMK, and the Rangaswamy factor is bound to make it a tough election for all the political big-wigs.