The politics of Puducherry has for long been in the shadow of Tamil Nadu. Ever since the early 1960s, when the union territory got its first Chief Minister, the state has been dominated by Dravidian parties from Tamil Nadu (DMK and AIADMK) with occasional inroads by Congress. The state usually goes to polls along with Tamil Nadu and with a few exceptions, the same party forms the government in both states.
However, in the 2021 assembly election, the game has been completely reversed with a BJP led coalition set to come to power in Puducherry and a Stalin led DMK in Tamil Nadu. Now the units will have parties in power that stand diametrically opposite on the political spectrum. This will definitely help the union territory find a distinct existence of its own.
Congress’ rule in Puducherry in the past five years has been marred with misgovernance and alleged corruptions, epitomised best when the state is hit by frequent spates of natural calamities, sending day-to-day life in a tizzy, courtesy of the indifference with which the previous governments have ruled the union territory. Reportedly, the misgovernance of Congress has frustrated the citizens of Puducherry to such an extent that a fisherwoman took to complaining against former Chief Minister Narayanasamy while Rahul Gandhi was engaging with the community, a few months back.
The fisherwoman complained that the Chief Minister did not even visit her family in the aftermath of a cyclone. “The Sea is like this only. Nobody gave as any support. Even him [CM Narayanasamy], did he visit us during cyclone aftermath?” she was heard saying. The translator, who was no less than the Chief Minister of Puducherry himself, against whom the fisherwoman was complaining, had the audacity of turning her complaint into praise for himself. CM Narayanasamy told Rahul Gandhi that the woman said, “During Cyclone Nivar, I [Chief Minister] came and visited the area, I gave her relief. That is what she is telling.”
Days later, Narayanasamy was forced to quit the post of Chief Minister because his party lost the majority in the assembly, and this led to South India becoming Congress-mukt.
South India, which used to sustain Congress’ losses in the Hindi belt since post-Mandal/Kamandal politics emerged, has remained Congress-mukt with the loss faced by the party in the 2021 assembly election in Puducherry and Kerala – the two states where it was a contender.
Since the 1990s, caste-based political parties (known as Mandal parties because they emerged in the national scene after the recommendation of the Mandal Commission was implemented) emerged as the dominant political forces in the Hindi belt states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana. BJP, which tried to counter Mandal politics with Hindutva, also rose exponentially in the last three decades and is the dominant force in North India today.
Congress, which was slowly wiped out from the Hindi belt, sustained on the strength of its presence in South India. Except for Tamil Nadu, the grand old party had a powerful presence in all the states and UTs – Kerala, Karnataka, united Andhra Pradesh, and Puducherry.
However, in the last few years, it lost one state after other and now it has been completely wiped out of South India except for being a junior coalition partner of DMK which seems to have won Tamil Nadu. If the 2021 assembly elections are any sign, Rahul Gandhi is set to finish Congress from South India, too after being elected from Wayanad.