Can Cong Win in Puducherry, Riding on ‘Anti-BJP Sentiment’ Alone?

Although a plus, analysts wonder whether ‘anti-BJP sentiment’ alone can help Congress secure victory in Puducherry.

3 min read
Hindi Female

The Indian National Congress in Puducherry, which could not prove its majority in the Assembly on Monday, 22 February, is hoping to bank on the anti-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sentiment to tide over the upcoming elections in the Union Territory.

“In the last polls held in 2016, the BJP could not win a single seat in Puducherry even though the party had fielded candidates in 18 seats. This shows that the people here do not want a BJP government,” a senior Congress leader told The Quint, on the condition of anonymity.

Even though the BJP is not a major Opposition party in Puducherry, as compared to its allies – the NR Congress and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) – the Congress leadership believes that votes will be cast either for or against the BJP, and that will come to the party’s aid.

Puducherry, which has traditionally opposed Hindu nationalism, will sink the NR Congress-AIADMK alliance which is in “cahoots with the BJP,” the senior Congress leader added.

Will this strategy help the Grand Old Party, which has a history of winning the Puducherry elections since the early 1990s?

While political analysts tell The Quint that the strategy may have its shortfalls, senior Congress leadership is positive about winning the next round.

A Poll Strategy Heavily Dependent on Opposing BJP

During the past week, a political crisis had been brewing in Puducherry with five Congress MLAs resigning from the party. The party’s coalition partner Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), too, lost an MLA on Sunday, 21 February.

The MLAs are believed to be wanting to join the BJP.

On Monday, V Narayanasamy-led Congress government faced a no-confidence motion in the House and failed to prove its majority. Even as he presented a long list of his government’s achievements, the Congress emphatically blamed “the Centre’s hand in toppling the government.”

In the past, too, Narayanasamy had staged several protests against the BJP’s interference in the state through now former Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi’s Raj Nivas.

Retired IPS officer Bedi had nominated three BJP MLAs to the House. She was abruptly sacked on 16 February.

Blaming Bedi, who has now been replaced by Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, will not help the Congress during the polls, experts said.

“The party will have to prove that it worked for the benefit of people. They will have to showcase their work. An anti-BJP sentiment can take you only so far in an election.”
A senior journalist, who works at a Tamil magazine, said

Some others maintained that removing Bedi from the L-G’s post was the BJP’s masterstroke.

“Now, the Congress does not have a BJP agent to project as an enemy during its campaign,” a political analyst added.

‘BJP Remotely Deciding Fate of Puducherry’

Setting the mood for the upcoming polls, the Congress on Monday strongly opposed the “unholy alliance” between the BJP and the regional parties.

“That (anti-BJP sentiment) is one aspect of Puducherry which will not change. As politics here is heavily influenced by neighbouring Tamil Nadu’s politics, the Congress can bank on a strong anti-BJP sentiment. The question is whether this alone will help the party,” the political analyst added.

While some of the resigned Congress MLAs may join the BJP, they will not get re-elected, another Congress stalwart told The Quint.

“The Congress MLAs who were opportunistic enough to join the BJP will not win people’s trust again. If they had joined the NR Congress or any other party, they could have won. But joining the BJP will be considered a betrayal.”
The Congress leader

Meanwhile, with new members added to its rungs, the Opposition is neither stable nor does it have strong leadership, the Congress leader added.

“The Opposition now has two leaders – N Rangasamy of the NR Congress and A Namassivayam, who was with the Congress till he resigned from the party last week. Both of them would want to become Chief Minister and the BJP alliance will fall apart,” the leader said.

“And neither of them are popular beyond their constituencies,” he added.

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