Puducherry Assembly Elections 2016

Puducherry enclaves have it both ways

A voter awareness banner erected at Rajiv Gandhi Square in Puducherry. Photo: S.S. Kumar   | Photo Credit: S_S_KUMAR

It is an intriguing interplay between provincial factors and pan-regional politics as Puducherry’s enclaves, geographically discrete and located in three other States, go through another election cycle.

While electoral battles to the seven enclave constituencies have always been exposed to political influences in the respective States, the outcomes have largely been determined by purely provincial issues and politicians with a grassroots connect.

Puducherry’s 30-member House is made up of elected legislators from 23 constituencies in Puducherry, five in Karaikal in Tamil Nadu and one each in Mahe in Kerala and Yanam in Andhra Pradesh. However, while Mahe and Yanam have stood solidly by the Congress in successive elections, the political mood-swings of the electorate and the presence of Tamil Nadu’s major Dravidian parties have heightened unpredictability in Karaikal in recent years.

In Mahe, locked on three sides by the Left-dominated Kannur district in Kerala, and Yanam in East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh, the Puducherry Congress has cultivated pocket-sized citadels that have not breached even when winds of change have swept through adjacent territories.

In fact, the Congress has had such a stranglehold on Mahe that it has won here in almost every election since 1964 — the only exception was in 1977 when an Independent squeaked through.

In a constituency, wedged as it is in a predominantly pro-Left belt, the Congress owes its overwhelming dominance to its veteran E. Valsaraj, who has won in six successive Assembly elections since 1990.

“Development is the main plank of campaigning in Mahe,” says Mr. Valsaraj, a former Minister who recently completed 25 uninterrupted years as legislator in the Puducherry Assembly.

Left influence

There has always been an influence of Left politics in Mahe and this is why this year too the CPI(M) in Kerala is fielding a candidate, he said.

“However, the people of Mahe have witnessed the developments that have happened over a quarter of a century. This has denied the Left-backed candidates significant talking points in campaigns,” Mr. Valsaraj said.

Congress dominance in Mahe dates back further when A.V. Sreedharan proved invincible since 1985 in Palloor, which was later merged with Mahe.

In Yanam, it is Congress leader Malladi Krishna Rao who has reigned supreme in successive elections.

Mr. Rao won the seat four times in five attempts since 1996, as Independent in 1996 and 2001, and on the Congress ticket ever since. This, when proximate constituencies in East Godavari such as Tuni has rotated among the Telugu Desam Party, the Congress and the YSR Congress Party, while Pithapuram has swung from the BJP to the Praja Rajyam Party and an Independent in the 2004, 2009 and 2014 elections.

However, in Karaikal, a political nerve centre which has produced three Chief Ministers, political undercurrents in Tamil Nadu have had a stronger bearing on the political dynamic, and as a result, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam have been able to make inroads into what was once another Congress bastion.

About 120 kilometres away from the headquarters and hence the closest, the coastal district is bounded in the north and south by Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu.

The Congress has won up to three of the six seats (prior to the 2004 delimitation) through most elections since 1963. Its most dominant win came in the 2001 elections when it annexed four seats, while the party managed only two seats in the 1996 elections and drew a blank in 2006. In the 2011 elections, the Congress could win only from the Karaikal North constituency.

That no single party has established unrivalled dominance can be partly explained by the simmering resentment over the neglect of development in this enclave.

For the May 16 elections this year, every major party will be aiming big in Karaikal. The AIADMK is fielding candidates for all five seats in Karaikal, while neither the ruling All India NR Congress nor the Congress-DMK alliance has finalised candidates.

(With inputs from S. Prasad)

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 1:38:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/puducherry2016/Puducherry-enclaves-have-it-both-ways/article14242386.ece

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