Former Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, whose government collapsed on Monday after a series of resignations, today claimed proof that MLAs "were threatened" and forced to quit the Congress. He also denied that the exits were linked to any resentment in the ranks because of him.
Mr Narayanasamy's four-and-a-half year old government lost its majority after four quick resignations by Congress MLAs, three of whom had reportedly been upset at the party's decision to para-drop an "outsider" as Chief Minister. The 73-year-old's obsessive sparring with then Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi also did not go down well with many within the Congress.
With Kiran Bedi's sudden removal last week, said Congress sources, the BJP was able to rob Mr Narayanasamy of his single-biggest poll pitch.
"The MLAs have been with me for over four years... Now suddenly they say they have complaints against me," Mr Narayanasamy told NDTV in an exclusive interview, questioning that theory.
Two of the MLAs have since joined the BJP and there are reports that more will follow - a trend seen in a few opposition-ruled states where defections to the BJP have brought down governments. Mr Narayanasamy alleges the same plan - dubbed "Operation Kamala" by BJP critics - took him down.
"The MLAs were being threatened. I have proof," the former Chief Minister alleged.
"An MLA came to me and said I have to pay Rs 22 crores in tax returns and I have been told that if I resign, then the case against me will be closed," he claimed.
On the "parachute Chief Minister" charge, Mr Narayanasamy insisted his appointment was by consensus, not pushed by the Gandhis.
"Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi never interfered in my selection. A Congress delegation came and met all the MLAs and then only they selected me. There was no interference from the leadership," he said.
He also denied that the leadership was upset at the manner in which the Puducherry crisis went down. "Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi backed me from Day 1. Even now, during the crisis, they backed me. What has Narendra Modi gained by toppling my government in Puducherry?"
The people of Puducherry are with the Congress, he continued. "They sympathise with us. Please come here and see. They sympathise with me and support me. I am confident that the Congress-DMK will win again in Puducherry," he said.
On the possibility of becoming Chief Minister again, Mr Narayanasamy said: "I am a Congress worker and whatever Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi decide, I will follow that in future."