Does Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram have a special liking for Puducherry? He has made multiple visits to the Union Territory in the past and is expected to begin a two-day trip again on Sunday, fuelling speculation that he is perhaps trying to cultivate the seat for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
The plausible reason, of course, is that the current trip is aimed at reviewing preparations for launching the much-hyped Direct Cash Transfer (DCT) scheme. With Chief Minister N Rangasamy of late cozying up with the UPA government and sharing good vibes with the finance minister, there is a sense here that the Centre might want to make Puducherry its showpiece for implementing the DCT, touted by Chidambaram himself as a “game-changer”. For, this is a small, mostly urban district with a high penetration of banking services, which is critical for DCT rollout.
Success in DCT would offer rich political pickings and make it easy for Chidambaram to claim the seat in the 2014 General Elections, claim party sources. More so since he barely managed to scrape through in the last Lok Sabha polls in Sivaganga.
According to sources, Rangasamy would back Chidambaram if the party high command fields him in place of incumbent V Narayanasamy against whom the chief minister had fought pitched political battles in the past. This perhaps is one reason why Chidambaram is keen on implementing the DCT here.
Chidambaram cultivating ut for polls?
He has already visited both Puducherry and Karaikal on several occasions in recent years, at times even associating with key Puducherry government schemes in the last Congress regime.
Another item on his agenda for the present visit is the poor financial situation in the UT. While the government had directed the administration to reduce fiscal deficit to 3% before the start of the current fiscal year, that did not happen. Collection of arrears has been poor with loans touching a whopping `4,671 crore, resulting in additional debt payment of `465 crore annually. The loans to GSDP ratio has climbed to over 35%.