Chennai: The proposed visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Puducherry on February 25, the series of defections from the Congress and the sudden sacking of former lieutenant-governor Kiran Bedi are all clear signals that the BJP is desperately planning to capture power in the tiny Union territory.
Traditionally a Congress bastion, the former French colony has suddenly become the cynosure of the BJP’s eyes since the party in power at the Centre is piqued over its inability to make inroads into South India.
The first step that the BJP took in Puducherry towards achieving its plan to storm into the political scene, where it had no presence at all otherwise — its local leader V. Saminathan polled just 1,509 votes in Lawspet constituency — was to appoint Kiran Bedi.
On her part, Bedi began operations by first taking a confrontationist course against the Congress government, headed by V. Narayanasamy, and then nominating three MLAs, including Saminathan, to the UT’s Assembly in 2017.
Though that backdoor entry of three MLAs into the House created a storm in Puducherry, it was finally approved by the Supreme Court and the three nominees continue to hold office. The next thing that Ms Bedi did was to start poaching from the Congress.
A minister in the V. Narayansamy Cabinet, A. Namassivayam, and his acolyte Theepainthan switched loyalties to the BJP after resigning their seats as MLAs in January, which was followed by two other MLAs resigning on Tuesday, Malladi Krishna Rao from Yanam (an enclave in Andhra Pradesh), and A. Johnkumar.
Having created such a crisis for the Congress government, the BJP, along with its allies AIADMK and NR Congress, have started putting pressure on Tamilisai Soundararajan, the Telangana governor who has been given additional charge of Puducherry, even before she has taken charge as acting lieutenant-governor, to oust the government that has just a few months more in office.
Besides poaching the Congress MLAs, the BJP has also used its allies, the NR Congress and AIADMK, in its mission to storm the Congress citadel. The DMK, ostensibly an ally of the Congress, also has ideas of capturing the Union territory on its own for various reasons.
But it is the BJP that has seemingly bigger plans. Even the sudden removal of Bedi appears to have been done to improve the image of the party among the people since the lieutenant-governor had become unpopular among several sections of people.
The chief minister, Narayansamy, had been campaigning against Bedi — he and his party colleagues had even sat on a fast in front of Raj Nivas — accusing her of being a stumbling block in the implementation of welfare schemes.
The BJP may have plans to bring in a new lieutenant-governor who would be able to win over the hearts of the people and also use its allies for the time being to capture power. It may project Namassivayam, who is popular locally, as its chief ministerial candidate.
Namassivayam, in any case, has a track record of party hopping. He started with the DMK, then went to MDMK, then to the TMC started by P. Kannan and thus landed in the Congress as the TMC merged with it.
As a leader with chief ministerial aspirations, Namassivayam was hopeful of realising his dream in 2016, but Narayanasamy came out of the blue and took away his chances. The BJP might have assured him that it can help him to become the chief minister.
Namassivayam and Theepainthan, incidentally, joined the BJP by travelling all the way to New Delhi and meeting top saffron leaders like Amit Shah and J.P. Nadda.