Congress Government In Puducherry Slips Into Minority Ahead Of Polls

Of the 30 elected MLAs in the assembly, Congress had 14 members and, along with the DMK's two and one independent, was just past the majority mark of 16.

Congress is left with 11 MLAs, leaving the V Narayanasamy government short of a majority

New Delhi:

Months before an election, the Congress government has lost its thin majority in Puducherry with four MLAs resigning since last month, two in the past two days.

Of the 30 elected MLAs in the assembly, Congress had 15 members and, along with the DMK's three and one independent member, was just past the majority mark of 16.

After the resignations, the government and the opposition both are at 14. The Congress has 10 members, leaving the V Narayanasamy government one short of the majority mark, which is now 15 with the assembly strength dropping to 28.

The exits are embarrassing for the Congress just before Rahul Gandhi's visit to Puducherry tomorrow to prep election strategy. This is his first visit since the party took power in the Union Territory.

The Congress has traditionally enjoyed a strong grip on Puducherry but this time round, it has faced rumblings over Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, seen to have been para-dropped after the 2016 election. Leaders that have walked out of the party had been resentful of his style of functioning and his endless feud with Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi.

Two of the MLAs -- A Namassivayam and E.Theeppainjan -- resigned on January 25. Both joined the BJP. On Monday, Malladi Krishna Rao quit and today, John Kumar resigned as MLA. Another Congress MLA, N.Dhanavelou, was disqualified for alleged anti-party activities last year.

"The situation is fluid," Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi told NDTV amid talk of a show of strength in the assembly.

Malladi Krishna Rao's move was surprising as he had last week accompanied the Chief Minister when he went to Delhi to push for the removal of Kiran Bedi as Lieutenant Governor.

Mr Namassivayam's switch to the BJP was a big blow for the Congress; the former state Congress chief had played a big role in consolidating the party's base in Puducherry. Along with him, several more Congress leaders and functionaries walked out in January and crossed over to the BJP, a well-worn script that has played out in several states where defections have brought down governments.

Mr Namassivayam's last few years in the Congress had been marked by disappointment.

During the 2016 state election campaign, he had been widely tipped to be Chief Minister but the post went to Mr Narayanasamy, an outsider who didn't even contest the polls. His angst built up when the post of Puducherry Congress chief went to AV Subramanian.

Sources say Mr Narayanasamy is unlikely to be the face of the party in the coming elections.

Leaders of the BJP, which has never had much of a presence in Puducherry, said the Congress imports would bolster the party considerably in the polls. The ruling party has been trying to improve its footprint in the south by bringing in strong leaders from rival parties.

Elections are due by May in Puducherry and neighbouring Tamil Nadu, besides Kerala, West Bengal and Assam. The BJP does not expect much from Tamil Nadu and Kerala at this point, but the party reckons a better chance in Puducherry, with the Congress considerably weakened.

The Congress had won 15 assembly seats in the 2016 polls, including that of the Speaker. It took power with the support of the DMK and an Independent. The opposition AIADMK has four MLAs, the AINRC has seven and there are three nominated members of the BJP.