The ruling All India NR Congress (AINRC) on Wednesday formally entered the NDA alliance with the party fielding former speaker R Radhakrishnan as its candidate for the lone Lok Sabha seat here.
Making the announcement at a press conference, Chief Minister N Rangasamy said he joined the alliance to fulfil the long-pending demand for Statehood of Puducherry. Rangasamy’s announcement, however, created some confusion, since the PMK, which itself is hoping to forge a poll pact with the BJP, has already fielded its nominee, R K R Anantharaman, for the Puducherry seat. Anantharaman has hit the campaign trail as well.
A couple of days ago, former Union health minister and PMK leader Dr Anbumani Ramadoss held discussions with Rangasamy at a hotel here, where they are understood to have arrived at an understanding. Puducherry BJP president M Visweswaran said the situation will become clear on Thursday, when he will announce the contours of the NDA alliance.
For his part, Rangasamy played the development card while justifying his alliance with the BJP-led front. “Keeping all issues of Puducherry in mind, we decided to align ourselves with the BJP-led alliance,” he said, but ducked queries on the saffron party’s secular record.
Interestingly, Rangasamy made the announcement at the party office with portraits of Congress leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Kamaraj adorning the walls.
Radhakrishnan, the NDA candidate, is a two-time MLA whose dad, R Ramanathan, was a lawmaker himself. His stint as speaker earned him appreciation from Treasury and Opposition benches.
When Rangasamy broke away from Congress in 2011 and formed the AINRC, he invited Radhakrishnan to join the party and contest the Bahour seat (Kuruvinathan constituency was merged with Bahour and other constituencies after delimitation). At that point, Radhakrishnan chose to stay with Congress despite being close to Rangasamy. He contested the 2011 Assembly elections on a Congress ticket and lost to AINRC’s T Thiagrajan.
Ever since, he has maintained a low political profile. On September 4, he resigned from all posts in the Congress, claiming he had opted for political sanyas since he was not comfortable with the ‘self-centred’ functioning of the party. The Congress, however, did not accept his resignation, but Rangasamy managed to get him into his party’s fold.
Though Radhakrishnan belongs to the upper Reddiar caste, it is unlikely to be disadvantage. With the full force of the AINRC behind him, he is expected to find acceptance among a big chunk in the Vanniyar community.