Crisis hits Congress in Puducherry; V Narayanasamy-led government loses majority

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Updated: February 17, 2021 9:16 AM

Puducherry: The strength of the Congress in the assembly has decreased to ten including the Speaker.

Puducherry Congress Kiran Bedi V NarayanasamyKiran Bedi, also a former BJP member, and Narayanasamy have been at loggerheads over various issues.

In sudden political developments, the Congress government in the union territory lost its majority with another ruling party MLA resigning on Tuesday, while Lt Governor Kiran Bedi, whose recall has been demanded by the ruling party for long, was eased out of the post.

The resignation by John Kumar, who became the fourth legislator to quit the assembly since last month, reduced the numbers of the Congress-DMK alliance to 14 in the assembly with an effective strength of 28, prompting calls by the opposition for resignation of Chief Minister V Narayanasamy.

The strength of the Congress in the assembly has decreased to ten including the 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 and the opposition also has 14 MLAs in the 33-member House.

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.

In a surprise development late on Tuesday, the Rashtrapati Bhavan announced Bedi, who faced several protests by the ruling Congress against her style of functioning, will cease to hold the office of Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, just a week after Narayanasamy petitioned President Ram Nath Kovind, urging him to recall her.

Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan has been given the additional charge of Puducherry until regular arrangements for the office of Lieutenant-Governor are made, Ajay Kumar Singh, press secretary to the President, said in a statement in New Delhi.

Expectedly, Narayanasamy hailed the replacement of Bedi, saying it “marks victory for the rights of the people”.

Students wing of the Congress burst crackers in the heart of the town, welcoming Bedi’s removal.

Former minister and new BJP entrant A. Namassivayam said they were glad that Tamil speaking person Soundararajan has been given the additional charge of Puducherry and expressed confidence she would help in implementing development schemes.

Principal opposition All-India NR Congress chief N Rangasamy said Bedi had adhered to the provisions of the statutes and no political reading intoher replacement would be justified.

Rangasamy said he was glad that a Tamil speaking person has been assigned the post of Lt Governor.

The decision to remove Bedi, a former IPS officer, appeared to have come as a surprise to many, including the Lt Governor herself, as just a few hours ago she tweeted a video of her reviewing the COVID-19 vaccination of front line workers in the UT with officials over phone and giving directions for increasing the coverage.

Bedi, also a former BJP member, and Narayanasamy have been at loggerheads over various issues ever since she was appointed Puducherry Lt Governor in May 2016, with the ruling Congress accusing her of going against the decisions of the elected government, a charge denied by her consistently.

Narayanasamy, who recently took part in a protest here demanding her recall, had on February 10 submitted a detailed memorandum to the President, complaining that Bedi was ‘autocratic’ and been interfering in the administration, besides ‘impeding’ the implementation of various proposals of his cabinet.

MLA Kumar said he has resigned his Congress membership also.

“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, told PTI.

Party sources indicated he 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.

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, saying it was in minority.

“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.

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

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

“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 mediapersons.

There was no reponse from the DMK to the resignations, and it has stayed away from protests, including against Bedi, held by the Congress-led Secular Democratic Alliance recently.

The development came a day ahead of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the UT to launch the party’s campaign for the assembly polls, likely in April. The present assembly’s term ends on June 8, 2021.

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. The Speaker has accepted the resignations of Kumar and Rao, sources in the Assembly said.

Another Congress MLA N Dhanavelou was disqualified for alleged anti-party activities in July last year. The Congress had won 15 assembly seats in the 2016 polls.

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