The countdown for the assembly elections in Puducherry that will seal the fate of 324 candidates across 30 constituencies on Tuesday has begun.
With campaigning coming to an end, both NDA and Congress have expressed confidence they will form the government in Puducherry.
During campaigning, while Rahul Gandhi held the reins of Congress in the Union Territory, BJP's camp witnessed high-profile rallies from an array of leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Minister Amit Shah and party president JP Nadda. Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan too campaigned for his party in the UT.
BJP during its campaigning had projected the erstwhile Congress government as incapable and pushed the development agenda. It promised 'special Union territory' status to Puducherry and to increase devolution of funds from 25 per cent to 40 per cent as done in Jammu and Kashmir to ensure development.
Congress on other hand, in its mfesto, promised statehood to the UT, waiving off all loans of the Puducherry government obtained from the Centre and the inclusion of the UT in the Central Finance Commission. It also promised to bear the cost of COVID-19 vaccination for the people of the UT along with free education from primary to research level to the students of SC, ST, OBC, fishermen and girls in a phased manner.
Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), however, promised that it will ensure that all the basic needs of the people are met if it is elected to power.
Elections in Puducherry, which is currently under President's Rule, is mainly between the Congress - Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) alliance and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) comprising All India NR Congress, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The NDA in the Puducherry is a rare case where the BJP is not the largest constituent of the alliance. The BJP is contesting on nine seats with the alliance led by the All India NR Congress contesting on 16 seats, and the AIADMK on five seats.
The Congress, whose government in the Union Territory fell in February before completing its five-year term under the Chief Minister V Narayansamy, has also ceded its ground to its allies in Puducherry, giving 13 seats to the DMK and one each to the Communist Party of India and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi. The party skipped fielding former Chief Minister Narayanasamy and is contesting on only 14 out of its 15 seats.
Congress has not fielded any candidate from Yanam constituency, the second seat from where AINRC chief N Rangasamy is contesting and is supporting an Independent candidate Gollapalli Srinivas Ashok. To Narayanasamy, the party has given the responsibility of campaign and election management.
It is pertinent to note that even in the 2016 election, Narayanasamy was not the choice of MLAs since he had not contested the Assembly elections. He had become the Chief Minister without contesting the polls and entered the Assembly by winning a by-election subsequently.
Among the key candidates of Congress, P Selvanadane will contest from Kardirgamam assembly seat, M Kannan from Indira Nagar, Karthikeyan from Oussudu, and Ramesh Preambath from Mahe.
From NDA's camp, AINRC chief N Rangasamy is also contesting from Thattanchavady apart from Yanam. BJP Puducherry president V Swaminathan is seeking election from the Lawspet constituency.
Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam party is also contesting from some seats in Puducherry.
In the 2016 assembly polls, Congress had won 15 seats, All India NR Congress eight seats, AIADMK got four seats, DMK walked away with two MLAs. BJP could not win any seats.
Polling for 30 assembly seats in Puducherry will be held on April 6. The counting of votes will take place on May 2. Of the 30 assembly seats, five are reserved for the Scheduled Caste candidates. A total of 10,04,507 electors will exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 324 candidates in Puducherry.
( With inputs from ANI )
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