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Why Modi’s reference to Congress high command strikes a chord

No one in the Congress will perhaps dispute what Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke at his first public rally in Puducherry on February 25 after the fall of the Congress government. The main reason for the collapse of the Congress in the Union Territory, Modi pointed out was that it did not get a “people’s government”– a government that it had voted for in the 2016 assembly elections.” People got a government that was busy serving the Congress high command in Delhi, their priorities were different. Your former CM was an expert in lifting the slippers of his top party leaders, ” he declared, recalling an old incident involving outgoing Chief Minister V Narayanswamy offering his slippers to Rahul Gandhi.

Modi’s reference to Congress high command at a BJP rally may seem odd but what he said best summed up the cause for the near eclipse of the Grand Old Party in the former French colony. Congress leaders admit that the weakening of the party began with exit of A.Namassivayam from the Government last month, along with a few MLAs and their joining the BJP. As Puducherry Congress Committee President, it was Namassivayam who had led the Congress to victory in 2016. Unfortunately for him, he was cheated of Chief Minister’s post because of some back-room manoeuvring by V Narayansamy, who staked claim without even contesting assembly elections.

A former Union Minister, V Narayansamy had been an MP for many years and had managed to earn the confidence of all top leaders in Delhi. It was his proximity to late Ahmed Patel that had helped him clinch the chief minister’s role in 2016– that too after losing 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In a Union Territory that has a micro-mini state assembly of 30 seats, it was unthinkable to get an unelected person to become chief minister. But somehow Narayansamy managed to convince an MLA–John Kumar–to vacate a seat for him.

Five years later today, the entire scenario in Puducherry seems to have changed for the worse. John Kumar who helped Narayansamy get elected as legislator was among the five MLAs who quit the state assembly plunging the government into crisis.

More importantly, Namassivayam seems to have got even with Narayansamy. Apparently, 40 percent of Congress workers have also walked out of the party along with him. Though it is not clear what kind of a say he will have in the BJP hierarchy, it is quite apparent that it was on Namassivayam’s insistence that Lt Governor Kiran Bedi was moved out of the UT to help build goodwill for the new party in the Union Territory.

When Modi speaks about ” a government whose high command is the people of the state not a small group of Congress leaders sitting in Delhi, ” he sure does strike many chords within the Congress. Party leaders feel another Puducherry-like scenario is simmering in the North and that is in Rajasthan, after all, it was Sachin Pilot who led the Congress to victory as Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee President in 2018 assembly polls. Like Namassivayam of Puducherry, Pilot too was tricked out of chief minister’s job by a Congress high command favourite– Ashok Gehlot. Though Congress leadership is seen making some feeble attempt to address Pilot’s grievances, it remains to be seen if this young leader will eventually go the Namassivayam way.

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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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