Senior Congress leader V Narayanasamy today ruled out any possibility of him taking on the mantle of chief ministership if the Congress-led alliance comes to power in Puducherry, saying he would turn down such an offer and would work 24X7 to strengthen the party in the Union Territory.
The former Puducherry chief minister's remarks come days after his name did not figure in the list of 14 candidates announced by the Congress for the Assembly polls and he asserted that he was not contesting the April 6 elections as there was a need to coordinate poll-related works and programmes of the party in the Union Territory.
Mr Narayanasamy said the defining issue of the assembly election this time was statehood for Puducherry and while the Congress was strongly behind the demand, the BJP manifesto was silent on it. He also alleged that BJP wanted to create a Delhi-like situation in Puducherry and take power away from an elected government.
Talking about other key issues on which the elections in the Union Territory are being fought, he said there is a demand for inclusion of Puducherry in the 15th Finance Commission, the waiver of legacy loans and the scrapping of NEET mode of medical examinations. If the BJP is given a chance by the people, the separate identity of Puducherry will be lost, he claimed.
"The Delhi government's power has been taken away and given to the lieutenant governor by the legislation passed by Parliament. Now, the Delhi government has become a lame-duck government, it has no teeth," Mr Narayanasamy said.
"That situation will be created in Puducherry also, by the BJP, therefore, we are very much afraid that BJP will go through with this agenda in Puducherry," he said. People should vote keeping that in mind, the former Union minister added.
Asked about the speculation surrounding him not contesting the assembly polls, Mr Narayanasamy said: "Our PCC chief (AV Subramanian) is contesting this election. There should be coordination in the campaign and among candidates, therefore, I myself told the high command that I will take care of election work."
"So, there is no question of leadership denying (me a ticket). I myself said I will campaign," Mr Narayanasamy, who has been the face of the party in the Union Territory since he became the Puducherry CM in 2016 till his government fell in February, said.
Asked if he would be willing to take on the mantle of chief ministership if the Congress-DMK alliance comes to power in Puducherry, Mr Narayanaswamy answered in the negative.
He said that in Congress, MLAs decide who would be the chief minister.
Pressed on the possibility that the MLAs may ask him to be chief minister despite him not contesting and whether he would still turn down the offer, Mr Narayanasamy said: "Yes definitely, I will tell them 'find somebody who has got a majority among the MLAs'."
He also asserted that post does not matter to him and said: "I am a Congress worker, I will work 24X7 for strengthening the Congress party in the state."
Asserting that he has great respect for party chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, he said his primary objective is to strengthen the Congress party in the Union Territory.
Mr Naraynasamy said the BJP's alleged attempts to "impose" Hindi and the increase in petrol, diesel and cooking gas prices, which is hurting the common man, were also critical issues in the polls.
Emphasising that statehood was the main poll issue, he said in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress in its manifesto had clearly mentioned that if it comes to power at the Centre, it will give statehood to Puducherry and that was not the case with BJP.
He also said there was anger in the minds of the people because the BJP had "toppled" an elected government.
"Elected government has been toppled by nominated MLAs. Though we had a majority of elected members in the assembly, by giving voting power to nominated MLAs, our government was toppled by the BJP at the Centre," he alleged.
The Congress-led government in Puducherry lost the confidence vote in February in the face of its depleted strength of 11 against the opposition's 14 following the resignation of ruling dispensation MLAs.
On the DMK drawing a hard bargain and fighting more seats in Puducherry this time, he said there was "heartburn" among Congress people because the DMK has taken a "little more seats" but asserted that "we have pacified our" leaders.
The Congress, which heads the Secular Democratic Alliance in the Union Territory, was allotted 15 of the 30 Assembly seats while its ally, the DMK, was earmarked 13 constituencies. The Congress is supporting an independent candidate on one of the seats from its quota.
The VCK and CPI, the other constituents of the alliance, have been earmarked one seat each.
Polling for 30 assembly seats in Puducherry will be held on April 6. The counting of votes will take place on May 2.