As Chief Minister of Puducherry, Rangasamy will find it difficult to keep ally BJP at bay
A change of guard in Puducherry, where governance and development took a backseat from mid-2016 due to continuing friction between the elected government and Raj Nivas, ushers in hope for its people. The electorate’s frustration with the erstwhile Congress government was amply reflected with just two of its 14 candidates getting elected, as opposed to 15 last time. At the same time, All India NR Congress (AINRC) founder N. Rangasamy, who on Friday took oath as Chief Minister for the fourth time, has his task cut out, administratively and politically. For the first time he will be heading a coalition government with the BJP, whose cabinet composition is in the making. The people are looking forward to quality governance and public service delivery in the midst of the COVID-19 second wave. It would be safe to infer that the electorate had backed the AINRC-BJP alliance in anticipation that the cordiality between the Territorial administration and the Centre would yield dividends. Their expectations are legitimate as no less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi pitched to them the promise of making Puducherry the BEST (Business hub, Education hub, Spiritual hub and Tourism hub). But such acronyms are easier to coin than implement. There needs to be cohesive action from the allies to translate them into action.
That said, on the ground there are indications that more than the battered and fatigued Opposition, Mr. Rangasamy is likely to face challenges from his openly ambitious ally. The BJP has tasted political blood in the Union Territory that is for most parts geographically contiguous and linguistically aligned with Tamil Nadu, which the national party has set its sights on next. It is seeking its pound of flesh by demanding that its nominee be made the Deputy Chief Minister. Mr. Rangasamy’s reservations in accommodating this demand are pronounced. The tiny territory has never had such a political post. The early disagreement between the allies has led to a delay in the swearing-in of the Cabinet. But it may not be easy for him to fend off the BJP. He would be conscious that the fragmented numbers thrown up in the election results leave the field open for manipulations to tilt the scales against him. In the 30-member House, the AINRC has 10 legislators, the BJP 6, DMK 6 and Congress 2. Independents account for 6 and indications are that three of them could lean towards the BJP. It will also not be long before the BJP appoints three nominated legislators who, thanks to a Supreme Court judgment, will have voting rights. Therefore, it would be a tightrope walk for the Chief Minister. Nonetheless, for the welfare of Puducherry, it would be best if the allies march on by focusing on governance without prioritising narrow, short-term political interests.