With assembly polls scheduled in Puducherry for this year along with Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and West Bengal, political activities have geared up in the union territory.
While the current political scenario isn’t very much clear, Puducherry-based political observers feel that there are two positive aspects that might go in favour of the ruling All India NR Congress (AINRC), which was founded by the chief minister and ex-Congress leader N Rangasamy in 2011.
Firstly, AINRC’s alliance with the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2014 might be an advantage for the ruling party. Both the parties seem to be making efforts for the preservation of the alliance. BJP’s Puducherry unit has got a new president and the party’s alliance with AINRC is being strengthened. If AINRC wins there would be more financial support from the union government, said NK Jha, professor of Pondicherry University. Given the fact that the union territory is dependent on centre for financial resources there is a feeling among political analysts that if AINRC doesn’t win, the centre might neglect the union territory. So people might bring AINRC again.
Another factor that might go in favour of the ruling party is that now there are not many strong and popular leaders in the opposition party Congress. The Congress might win at best in five or six constituencies out of 30 assembly seats. The AIADMK and DMK are not very strong in the union territory.
BJP is working on making its presence in Puducherry where the party has virtually no presence.
The factor that might go against AINRC is that this time Rangasamy did not fulfil the promises made in the manifesto. In 2011, the party had carried out development works and strengthen the infrastructure. However, this time focus was more on rolling out freebies. Even last time, freebies were distributed but that happened along with some development.
Overall, the situation may not improve much for the AINRC but they would manage to secure more or less what they got in the last assembly elections.
In 2011 polls, AINRC won 15 of the 17 seats it contested in the 30-member assembly. The AINRC along with AIADMK won 20 seats pushing the Congress and its ally DMK to 9 seats.
Issues in this election
The caste, according to the political experts, is not a big factor in Puducherry.
Lack of development works might be an issue this election.
Observers feel that the Congress might try to highlight issues like intolerance and secularism as minorities form a significant voting percent in Puducherry—Christians: 6.2 percent, Muslims: 6 percent.
Further, women will expect some empowerment such as reservation in Panchayati Raj election. Not much time is left for the election so there is a need for the government to take more such measures to empower women, said Jha.
The Congress leadership
Poor governance in the union territory, lack of industrial development, unemployment and salary issues are the areas that Congerss would take up, V Vaithilingam, the leader of opposition and former chief minister of Puducherry told Governance Now.
The party that had a vote share of 25.06 percent last assembly elections in Puducherry is however dependent on its neighbouring Tamil Nadu Congress on the issue of alliance. “Tamil Nadu Congress plays a major role in deciding on alliance. We depend on them. We can’t even align with the party on our own as the Tamil Nadu Congress doesn’t allow that to happen,” said Vaithilingam.
‘Temple festivals an emotional card to woo voters’
As assembly polls near, the union territory is also bustling with temple festivals. Consecration was held in 25 temples in just a day’s time. Analysts view it as an emotional card to woo Hindu voters. Kumbabishekam at one of the famous Thirukkanji Gangavaraha Nandeeswaran temple was performed after a gap of 48 years.
Government had declared a days’ holiday for all schools, colleges and government departments in view of consecration ceremonies at over big and small 25 temples in Puducherry. Chief minister N Rangasamy said that the holiday was declared in view of the festivals to be held at these temples.