Despite much of the Union territory of Puducherry being adjunct to Tamil Nadu, it is a land with a mind of its own. Which means neither the prohibition promise nor the caste politics of the nearby state are tried by the AIADMK or the DMK here.
Chief Minister N Rangasamy of the All India NR Congress is facing tough anti-incumbency. A former Congress leader, he had quit to form the AINRC after the party decided to remove him from the CM’s post.
“There has been no development under his rule. Only favouritism and corruption have been seen in the last five years,” says K Sujatha, an entrepreneur from Puducherry.
The Puducherry Assembly has 30 constituencies, spread across Puducherry (23), and its enclaves of Karaikal in Tamil Nadu (5), Mahe in Kerala (1) and Yanam in Andhra Pradesh (1). These are small seats, with voter strength ranging from 15,000 to 30,000 voters.
With Rangasamy contesting alone, the Congress-DMK alliance will gain, says an observer with the state government’s poll analysis wing. “In 2011 elections, Rangasamy allied with the AIADMK and won 15 seats. While the AIADMK also won five seats, he chose to sideline them and got the support of an Independent MLA to get a majority with 16 seats. This time, he chose to contest alone and this is definitely going to make him weak. His only advantage remains his image of being a politician accessible to everyone,” the observer says.
A senior Congress leader in Puducherry said that besides their two bastions of Mahe and Yanam, the party would capture four out of five seats in Karaikal, including one sitting seat of the DMK. “Out of 23, we will capture at least 12 seats in Puducherry too,” he said.
However, as is always the case with the Congress, a win could also be followed by a leadership tussle. While two-time CM V Vaithilingam would be the party’s obvious preference to lead any government, ex-Union minister V Narayanasamy might also try his luck courtesy his Delhi clout.
For Rangasamy, Puducherry’s longest serving CM though, a loss would be a hard blow. “Either he would be forced to retire or go back to the Congress for survival. Also he faces trouble from within his party, thanks to the AIADMK’s strategies,” says a DMK leader and former friend of Rangasamy.