Puducherry needs an efficient administration that is not immersed in political wrangles
The Union Territory of Puducherry has finally got a Council of Ministers. It has taken almost two months after the Assembly election results, and 50 days since the assumption of office by N. Rangasamy as Chief Minister, for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to get five nominees sworn in as Ministers, three from his party, the All India N.R. Congress (AINRC), and two from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). What makes Puducherry’s first NDA Ministry stand out from the earlier coalition ministries is the inordinate delay in its formation despite there being a pre-poll alliance. The impact of the deadly second wave of the pandemic did not add any sense of urgency to the parties to thrash out their differences. But there could be more trouble to come. Portfolios have not been allocated to the five Ministers who were sworn in on Sunday. The Chief Minister’s illness was not the only obvious reason for the delay in cabinet formation; there were also differences between the partners and within the BJP local unit. The central government too appeared to have supported the Chief Minister’s not-so-enthusiastic response to the local BJP unit’s demand for the post of Deputy Chief Minister as it did not create any such post. However, the BJP, which has nine MLAs in the Assembly, including three nominated legislators, is tasting power for the first time in the Union Territory; the party has also got the post of Assembly Speaker. For all the delay, those involved in the Cabinet formation, including Mr. Rangasamy, deserve credit for the social balance in the Council of Ministers, which has three former Ministers, two representatives of Scheduled Castes and a woman.
There is a strong possibility that the two parties would continue to have differences over the implementation of their manifestos, the key one being the AINRC’s emphasis on Statehood which the national party is silent on. The territorial administration is not in the pink of health as far as its finances are concerned. According to the Budget for 2020-21, debt servicing accounts for about 18% of the revenue expenditure of the administration annually, in addition to salaries and pensions constituting around 35% and power purchase, 17%. Under such circumstances, it is not hard to guess how many of the goodies promised by the two parties would translate into reality. Instead of committing itself to many new measures, the Council of Ministers should ensure that existing welfare schemes, including social security pension to age group-wise beneficiaries, are well implemented. The Centre should also be empathetic and provide a package by waiving “legacy loans”, those taken about 15 years ago. Mr. Rangasamy and Ministers should ensure corruption-free and quality administration, instead of engaging in political bickering.