The delay in the formation of the Ministry in Puducherry does not appear to be merely because Chief Minister N. Rangasamy was indisposed for some days. He took charge on May 7 before taking ill; he has now recovered from COVID-19, but there is no word on Cabinet expansion. The delay is a reflection of the uneasy relationship between Mr. Rangasamy’s N.R. Congress, and its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been paying special attention to the Union Territory to become a major force. On the face of it, the delay is because of the Chief Minister’s hospitalisation and his home quarantine, which was over on Sunday (May 23). But his illness did not come in the way of the Centre making three BJP members nominated legislators of the Assembly. One reason that is holding up Ministry formation is the BJP’s demand for the Deputy Chief Minister’s post and a few ministerial berths, as stated by Union Minister of State for Home Affairs G. Kishan Reddy, one of the point persons of the BJP for Puducherry. But it was evident that Mr. Rangasamy was not too enthused by the national party’s proposals. A few days before assuming office, he was on record to say that there was no precedent of Puducherry having had a Deputy Chief Minister, but would consider the matter if the Centre created such a post. However hard it may be for him, Mr. Rangasamy has to contend with the reality that the BJP’s strength in the Assembly is just one short of his party’s 10, after the nomination of the three MLAs. Lieutenant Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, on May 21, appointed K. Lakshminarayanan as the pro-tem Speaker of the Assembly, paving the way for the early swearing-in of MLAs.
However, what bothers the people of the Union Territory — it has a population of about 12.5 lakh (2011 Census) — is that there is no full-fledged elected government in place during a raging COVID-19 pandemic. Between May 8, the day after Mr. Rangasamy became Chief Minister, and May 24, the number of active cases went up by 2,250; the total number of active cases stood at 15,835 on Monday. In this period, the toll rose by almost 50% and as on Monday, 1,382 persons have died since the outbreak of the pandemic. Puducherry does need a vibrant and imaginative Health Minister to beat the virus. This is also an opportunity for the N.R. Congress and the BJP to set aside their differences and show that they have genuine concern for the welfare of the people by forming the Council of Ministers at the earliest. This is no time for procrastination.