Counting of votes for the 30 seats in Puducherry will begin at 8 am on Sunday. On polling day on April 6, the Union Territory witnessed a turnout of 81.69%, a noteworthy figure since this election was conducted under the cloud of the coronavirus pandemic.
Results for the elections in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are also expected on Sunday. While all the southern states voted in a single phase on April 6, Assam voted in three phases and West Bengal in eight phases between March 27 and April 29.
Around 8.2 lakh of 10.04 lakh estimated voters exercised their franchise to elect from a pool of 323 candidates in the Union Territory. Puducherry has a total of 33 seats but three will be nominated by the Lieutenant Governor.
Puducherry was the last Congress bastion in the South until earlier this year, when a spate of resignations led to the fall of the V Narayanasamy-led government. The Congress hopes to regain its foothold, while the All India NR Congress aims to ride the anti-incumbency wave and come back to power.
In the fray
This election was essentially a fight between the Indian National Congress and the All India NR Congress.
The Congress led the Secular Democratic Alliance and contested 15 of the 30 seats in Puducherry, while its ally Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam fielded candidates in 13 constituencies. The Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and the Communist Party of India fielded one candidate each.
Former Chief Minister V Narayanasamy did not contest. The Congress was reportedly beset with infighting as many leaders felt they had given too many seats to the DMK.
The National Democratic Alliance was led by the All Indian NR Congress, which contested 16 seats. The Bharatiya Janata Party fought from nine seats while the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam was relegated to the position of the third partner with merely five seats.
AINRC President N Rangasamy was projected as the chief ministerial candidate of the NDA though it was not officially announced. He is contesting from two seats, Thattavanchavady and Yanam.
Former MLA and Congress turncoat Namasivayam is another candidate to watch for. The BJP leader will fight from Mannadipet against DMK leader Krishnan. Namasivayam is the son-in-law of All Indian NR Congress chief Rangasamy. After the previous elections in 2016, he was among the frontrunners for the chief ministerial position, but it ultimately went to Narayanasamy.
Actor Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Needhi Maiam, actor Vijayakanth’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam and filmmaker Seeman’s Naam Tamilar Katchi also contested the elections. However, they are not expected to make a big dent in votes.
The NDA alliance brought in all the big guns – Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as Union ministers Amit Shah, Nirmala Sitharaman, Nitin Gadkari and Giriraj Singh – during the run up to the election.
This alliance claimed that Puducherry would benefit from a double-engine government at both the central and the local levels. They also criticised the Congress and accused it of not developing the Union Territory or improving the lives of people despite being in power for five years. Rangasamy, a former chief minister, especially attacked the Congress for wasting time by fighting Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi. They also pointed out that the previous government had lost the confidence of its own MLAs, which led to its fall in February.
The Congress-DMK alliance’s campaign, on the other hand, was lacklustre. It was led by Narayanasamy as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi did not make many stops here. Other prominent faces included Puducherry MP V Vaithilingam, former Union minister Veerappa Moily, Rajya Sabha MP Mallikarjun Kharge and DMK President MK Stalin.
Its campaign focused on statehood for Puducherry, unemployment, the alleged anti-poor policies of the BJP at the Centre and rising fuel prices, according to The Hindu. Narayanasamy also attacked the BJP alliance by criticising its communal politics and the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test.
In an embarrassing turn of events, the Bharatiya Janata Party was accused of accessing phone numbers of voters from the Unique Identification Authority of India’s database to allegedly boost its election campaign in the Union Territory.
The Madras High Court sought an explanation from the Unique Identification Authority of India after a petitioner complained that the BJP had created booth-level WhatsApp groups that were sending messages to target voters in various parts of Puducherry.
The court noted that this was a “serious matter” as it involved the privacy of citizens, apart from the unfair mileage that the political party may have gained. It also rejected the BJP’s submissions that field workers had collected the phone numbers of voters through various sources, including missed calls made by them to join the party, door-to-door collection of details and from data available in the public domain.
Puducherry has been under President’s Rule since February 25, three days after the Narayanasamy-led Congress government failed to prove its majority in a floor test in the Assembly.
Following a string of resignations just months before the election, the Narayanasamy-led Congress government lost its majority on February 22. After submitting his resignation to Lieutenant Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, Narayanasamy said that the government elected by the people had been toppled, and the Opposition will be taught a lesson in the upcoming election.
The BJP said it will not stake claim to form a government, but asserted that the party will win in the upcoming Assembly election.
Exit polls have predicted a win for the National Democratic Alliance. It will win 19 to 23 of the 30 seats, while the Congress-DMK alliance is expected to win six to 10 seats, according to ABP-CVoter survey.
The India Today-MyAxis also predicted 20-24 seats for the NDA and six to 10 seats for the Secular Democratic Alliance.
In the 2016 elections, the Congress won 15 seats, while it alliance partner DMK won two seats. The incumbent AINRC won only eight seats, followed by the AIADMK’s four. The BJP did not win any seats.