PUDUCHERRY: Much to the discomfiture of other political parties in Puducherry, the BJP begins its electoral battle with the advantage of having three legislators in its kitty by virtue of having the power to appoint three nominated MLAs as it seeks to wrest power in the Union territory along with its allies in the coming assembly elections.
In the 33-member Puducherry Legislative assembly, 30 members are elected and three are nominated by the central government. In the previous Legislative Assembly, the central government appointed three of their partymen as nominated MLAs in sharp deviation from the past practice of the central government appointing nominated MLAs based on the recommendations of the elected government in the UT.
With the Supreme Court upholding the direct appointment of nominated MLAs by the central government and granting them voting rights, now after the Assembly elections gets over, the Centre is expected to once again appoint nominated MLAs directly who are likely to be their own partymen, says DMK South Convenor R Siva.
The nomination of MLAs is not only a setback to the Congress-DMK alliance, but also to NDA allies NR Congress and AIADMK. "We are starting from zero, but the BJP is starting from three," has been the cry of political leaders like Lok Sabha member V Vaithilingam of the Congress. This is also felt by BJP allies NR Congress and AIADMK as the BJP seeks to decide on the Chief Ministerial candidate after the elections based on the performance of all the parties in the alliance (read BJP and NR Congress, the two main contenders for the CM post being A Namassivayam and N Rangasamy respectively).
So far, the three seats of nominated MLAs have not figured in the seat sharing talks between the NDA allies BJP, NR Congress and AIADMK, which has been restricted to the 30 elected seats. The BJP which hopes to contest at least 9 or 10 seats in the alliance, leaving 15 to NR Congress and six to AIADMK, would always have three, plus the seats it wins by contesting. With several heavyweight members from the Congress, DMK and NR Congress in its fold, the BJP is in a favourable position.
"The former Chief Minister V Narayanasamy should have gone on appeal to a higher bench of the Supreme Court on the issue of appointment of nominated MLAs directly by the central government and empowering them with voting rights in the assembly. The aspect of nominated MLAs not being able to vote in Presidential elections and Rajya Sabha elections should have been put up before the Supreme Court," said a senior NR Congress functionary.
Keeping this aspect of nominated MLAs in mind, the NR Congress is threatening to break away unless it's given at least 18 seats in the alliance, with the remaining seats shared between the BJP and AIADMK. An upset AIADMK (which won four seats in the last elections) has approached its party leadership on the offer of just six seats, while the NR Congress founder President N Rangasamy has once again gone on pilgrimage after negotiations between him and Nirmal Kumar Surana, the Karnataka BJP Vice President in charge of elections in Puducherry on Wednesday, failed to reach a consensus.