Questions within Cong: Did high command neglect discontent?

Although the Congress believes it can gain in the upcoming elections, riding on a sympathy factor, party leaders say many questions remain.

As the Congress lost its government in Puducherry, fingers are being pointed at V Narayanasamy, who resigned as chief minister after his government lost majority, as also the party high command over the way politics in the Union Territory has been handled.

Although the Congress believes it can gain in the upcoming elections, riding on a sympathy factor, party leaders say many questions remain.

Congress leaders said both Narayanasamy and the high command were “overconfident” and “underestimated” both the discontent brewing in the party as also vulnerability of some of its MLAs. The party had in last March lost its government in Madhya Pradesh and in 2019 its coalition government in Karnataka had fallen.

In Puducherry, Congress leaders said attempts to poach its MLAs had begun in 2018 itself. They said MLAs E Theeppainthan and Vizeaveny V had complained to then Speaker V Vaithilingam that two MLAs, one from AIADMK and another from NR Congress, had approached them with an offer for financial and other support to switch sides. Sources said audio recordings were also handed over to the Speaker.

When contacted, Vaithilingam confirmed he had received the complaint. Although he inquired into the matter, it did not reach any conclusion. In 2019, he resigned to contest Lok Sabha. His successor as Speaker, V P Sivakolundhu, Congress leaders claimed, did not take it forward. “We knew all along that there were attempts…some of our MLAs and leaders like former PWD minister A Namassivayam were upset. But we did not do enough to address these issues,” one Puducherry leader said.

A party high command leader countered, saying leaders like Namassivayam were given key portfolios. “What else can we give? If he wanted to be CM he should have had the support of the MLAs. He has joined BJP now,” a top party leader said. “The BJP will be in alliance with AIADMK and NR Congress. NR Congress leader N Rangasamy wants to be the CM… he was the CM earlier.”

“So what will Namassivayam do. Moreover, Namassivayam’s father-in-law is Rangasamy’s elder brother…” this leader said.

What is unsaid is that present Speaker Sivakolundhu has also become a suspect in the eyes of many Congress leaders – not just for not taking forward the complaint but for his role in the last few days. Congress sources said Narayanasamy was hoping that the Speaker would not allow the three nominated BJP MLAs to cast their votes. “But he did not say anything in the House,” one leader said.

The AICC, too, it appears, did not expect the government would be toppled. “We expected one or two people to go. But we thought that since the election is round the corner, why would they want to topple the government,” a high command leader said. “For us it is a benefit in some ways….the focus would have been solely on the government’s performance. Now we can talk about all this.”

Lashing out at the BJP, AICC in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao said democracy stands murdered in Puducherry. “The actions of BJP, the Central government, using agencies such as CBI, IT, ED, they have threatened, blackmailed and coerced our MLAs,” he said.

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