Elections today in Pondicherry, the last Congress of the South Bastion lost | All you need to know

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Thirty assembly seats in the Union territory of Pondicherry will be up for grabs today. These seats should be hotly contested given the small size of the electorate of 10 lakh voters.

The battle in Puducherry pitted Congress against the All India NR Congress led by former Chief Minister N Rangasamy. It was the last congressional stronghold in the South that was recently lost due to a wave of resignations. Five congressmen and a legislator from ally DMK resigned in January-February this year, resulting in the fall of the V Narayanasamy government in Pondicherry on February 22. The UT has since been under the reign of the president.

Congress hopes to ride the wave of sympathy in the next election. Its list of 15 candidates, however, does not include Narayanasamy. The Congress-led Secular Democratic Alliance allocated 13 seats to DMK and one each to Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and CPI.

The BJP, which had not won a single seat in 2016, emerged as a major candidate this time after three sitting congressmen defected from the party. The saffron camp is assisted by AINRC and AIADMK, both of which have strong electoral bases. While the AINRC contests 16 seats as a lead partner, the BJP presented candidates in nine.

Past assembly elections

The Congress-DMK alliance formed the government in Pondicherry in 2016 after Congress became the largest party with 15 seats; DMK had bagged two of them. The outgoing AINRC president won eight seats and was the second largest party in the assembly. The AIADMK, which had broken its alliance with the AINRC, fielded candidates in all 30 seats and won four.

The 2011 polls gave the mandate to AINRC, which won 15 seats. Congress won seven, AIADMK five, DMK two, and the last one was won by an independent.

State status is the biggest electoral problem in Pondicherry this time. Other major issues are the inclusion of Puducherry in the 15th finance committee, the waiver of inherited loans, and the removal of the NEET medical entrance exam.

Key constituencies

Thattavanchavady is a key constituency where NDA chief ministerial candidate and AINRC president N Rangasamy is running. P Sethuselvam of CPI is his main opponent.

AINRC’s founding leader, N Rangasamy, will run in two constituencies (Photo | PTI)

Yanam has the largest Telugu speaking population in Pondicherry. This is the second seat from which Rangasamy competes. Here he faces independent candidate Gopalli Srinivasa Ashok.

Former congressman Namasivayam, who recently switched to BJP, is seeking votes in Mannadipet. It was the suspension of Namasivayam that triggered the fall of the Congressional government in Pondicherry. DMK’s Krishnan is his main opponent. Namasivayam is Rangasamy’s son-in-law and the two were initially at daggers drawn. Both are now in the NDA for the next election.

(with contributions from Priyamvatha in Chennai)

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