he demand of Statehood for Puducherry, which is poised to become the single-most important issue this election here, has the political parties divided.
While ruling All India N.R. Congress (AINRC) is pushing for full-fledged Statehood so that the government has powers to take decisions and implement them fast, the Congress, which is the Opposition party here, says that it will be inadequate and that the Centre should grant Puducherry a ‘Special Category’ status.
Explaining the rationale behind their demand, senior Congress leader and former Union Minister for State, V. Narayanasamy, says that such a status alone would ensure that around 90 per cent of the budget requirements are fulfilled through grants, while the remainder would have to be locally mobilised.
In contrast, if only Statehood is granted the Centre would give only a 30 per cent grant and the new State would have to mobilise the remaining 70 per cent of its financial requirements on its own. The resolution tabled by the government, Mr. Narayanasamy added, should be amended to include the demand for ‘Special Category’ status.
The Congress’s demand, the AINRC says, will not be met as it will be deemed unreasonable, and thus the Union Territory should seek what is achievable. At present, the territorial government has to approach the Centre for each and every administrative matter.
The concurrence of the Centre is necessary to even introduce a Bill in the Assembly. Hence, full-fledged Statehood would help elected governments in the future, the ruling party reasons.
“We have been insisting on full Statehood knowing fully well that special category status will not be possible,” says an AINRC leader.
However, one thing that all the parties agree is that Puducherry needs to get out the Centre’s shadow and its elected Assembly should have full-fledged powers.
“In fact, the territorial Assembly has adopted 13 resolutions in the past to urge the Centre to concede the demand for Statehood. But no response has been registered so far from the Centre although a committee of MPs visited Puducherry to feel the pulse, says a senior official on the condition of anonymity.
A long history
Political observers point out that even non-Congress governments — like the one formed by the AIADMK under S. Ramaswamy — were vocal on the issue . In fact, the first resolution for Statehood was adopted in 1977 when the AIADMK was in power and no Assembly session since has been concluded without one.
All the political parties, including the DMK, the AIADMK and the CPI, criticise the Centre for its “step motherly” attitude towards Puducherry and for keeping their plea on the backburner. The Union Territory, they allege, is “just another department of the Union Home Ministry.”
The AIADMK, like the Congress, is promising to fight for Statehood and a ‘Special Category’ status if voted to power.
The only murmurs of discontentment are coming from government employees, who are afraid that they will end up losing all their benefits if Puducherry’s constitutional status is changed.
No Assembly session since 1977 has concluded without adopting a resolution on Statehood