Poach and win
THE WEEK|March 07, 2021
The success of ‘Operation Lotus’ and the arrival of the new lieutenant governor shake up Puducherry politics
LAKSHMI SUBRAMANIAN

EARLY IN THE MORNING on February 22, even as Puducherry was recovering from flash floods caused by heavy rainfalls a day before, iron barricades were being put up on the water-logged roads leading to the legislative assembly. The eerie silence surrounding the French colonial style building, guarded by a large posse of policemen, was broken only by the chirping of the birds from the nearby Bharathi Park. Soon, MLAs and ministers started arriving at the assembly complex, as the Congress government led by V. Narayanasamy was seeking a vote of confidence.

Clad in a white dhoti, a crisp white shirt and a shawl in Congress colours, Narayanasamy looked determined, sending out a message that he will not give up without a fight. As the assembly session started, the chief minister made an impassioned speech listing the achievements of his government. He criticised the BJP and the All India N.R. Congress led by opposition leader and former chief minister N. Rangaswamy for their attempts to topple his government. “Kiran Bedi (who was replaced as lieutenant governor on February 18) and the Modi government entered into a conspiracy to ensure the fall of our government,” he said. He accused the BJP of committing “political prostitution” and blamed it for “unpopular” schemes like demonetisation.

Narayanasamy’s comments on demonetisation led to chaos in the assembly as the opposition benches rose in protest against the attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “This is not a public meeting,” said A. Anbalagan, legislature party leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. But it did not stop Narayanasamy who said Bedi interfered in his administration “on the instruction of her bosses in Delhi”. As the confidence motion was taken up for voting, he said the three MLAs nominated by Bedi without consulting the council of ministers should not be allowed to vote and walked out with his MLAs. A while later, Speaker V.P. Sivakolundhu announced that the motion was defeated. “The speaker is the BJP’s stooge,” said chief whip R.K.R. Anantharaman. Rangaswamy, however, blamed the Congress leaders for the party’s defeat. “They have lost the confidence of the people as they did not work for their welfare,” he said.

The Narayanasamy government went into crisis mode in mid-January after minister A. Namassivayam and MLA E. Theeppainthan resigned and joined the BJP. Soon more MLAs—Malladi Krishna Rao, A. John Kumar and K. Lakshmi Narayanan of the Congress, and K. Venkatesan of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)—also quit, bringing down the strength of the Congress-DMK alliance to 12 in the 30-member assembly. “The BJP lured them by offering money,” Narayanasamy told THE WEEK in an exclusive interview.

Sources told THE WEEK that one of the resigned MLAs had debts close to 02 crore and that he got the BJP’s help to settle the dues. Another MLA who ran a private lottery and a cable TV business came under the scanner of the income tax department. “He was shaken as he was summoned by the IT department to Chennai. He rushed to Delhi to bail himself out of the crisis and soon came his resignation,” said a senior Congress leader.

Do not want to comment on Bedi’s performance

BY LAKSHMI SUBRAMANIAN

Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan,

lieutenant governor, Puducherry

Q/ You have been governor of Telangana for more than a year. But the role of a lieutenant governor is quite different.

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