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Will Puducherry be a consolation prize for the Congress?

Shriya Mohan | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

The Union Territory of Puducherry is going to vote on 16 May. Here's a snapshot:

* Total number of voters - 9,27,128. That's 3.3%, or 29,612, more voters than the previous election.

* There are 30 Assembly constituencies in all.

* Chief Minister N. Rangaswamy's tenure will end in June.

* Women voters (4,85,886) outnumber men (4,41,168).

* There are 74 voters under the 'other gender' category.

* Results will be declared on 19 May.

Where going solo is the mantra

N Rangaswamy broke away from Indian National Congress to form All-India NR Congress (AINRC) on 7 February, 2011. Three months later, the party won 15 seats in the 2011 Assembly elections.

Rangaswamy has made important contributions in building infrastructure in Puducherry. He has strengthened the education system by arranging for free education in government schools and implementing the Mid-day Meal Scheme.

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In the run-up to the 2016 assembly elections, the AINRC is aiming at consolidating their base in all the regions of the union territory, especially Congress strongholds like Mahe and Yanam.

The failure of the ruling AINRC to provide an affirmation on a poll alliance, has forced the BJP, which was its alliance partner since the Lok Sabha poll, to go it alone in the Assembly polls.

The BJP is also raring to strengthen its presence in Puducherry. BJP president Amit Shah has been taking active interest in the party's campaign in the Union Territory. .

The AIADMK has also decided to go it alone in Puducherry and has fielded candidates for all 30 seats, ruling out the possibility of an alliance. The AIADMK was also the first party to finalise its list of candidates for all Assembly segments in the UT.

The only tie up that has materialised is between the Congress and DMK, which is an extension of the alliance between the two parties in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.

Main issues

A lack of development is the big ticket issue this election.

Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister V Narayanasamy, who is from Puducherry, claimed that the electorate in was "displeased" with the working of the AINRC government and cited issues like unemployment and law and order which was "in the doldrums."

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"Traders are virtually left in the lurch, industrialists have found no favourable environment and developmental projects were not initiated all these five years," he told the media.

"Neither did Rangasamy approach the Centre for relief nor did the NDA government respond to any of the requirements of Puducherry," he claimed adding that the demand for statehood was also hanging in the balance.

The Congress has also highlighted issues like intolerance and secularism as minorities form a significant voting percent in Puducherry-Christians: 6.2%, Muslims: 6%.

Further, women expect some empowerment such as reservation in Panchayati Raj elections.

As Assembly polls approach, the union territory is also bustling with temple festivals. Consecration was held in 25 temples in just a day's time. Analysts view it as an emotional card to woo Hindu voters. Kumbabishekam at one of the famous Thirukkanji Gangavaraha Nandeeswaran temple was performed after a gap of 48 years.

The government had declared a days' holiday for all schools, colleges and government departments in view of consecration ceremonies at over big and small 25 temples in Puducherry. Chief minister N Rangasamy said that the holiday was declared in view of the festivals to be held at these temples.

Tourism and fisheries are the two primary industries in this union territory. Recently, the Union government announced its intention to assign Rs 85 crore for Puducherry's tourism sector.

What the polls say

According to an opinion poll conducted by India TV-CVoter, the Congress-DMK alliance is projected to win 17 out of the 30 seats in the upcoming assembly elections. The poll predicts that the AINRC will win 7 seats, AIADMK just 1 and others will win 5 assembly seats. The BJP, though unlikely to win any seat, may get about 8.7 % of the total votes.

As the polls indicated that the Congress might lose its government's in Assam and Kerala, Puducherry may just be a consolation prize for it.

Edited by Aditya Menon

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First published: 10 May 2016, 4:14 IST
Shriya Mohan @ShriyaMohan

An editor and writer of development stories at Catch, Shriya has 8 years of experience as a development journalist, holds a Masters degree in Public Policy from the National University of Singapore and is a two-time winner of the National Foundation for India media fellowship award. When she isn't exploring the universe with her two-year-old daughter, she chronicles public anger and shelters relevant stories that don't hang sexily on news pegs.