The scenic seaside Union Territory of Puducherry is gearing up for polls in May, and it seems like government servants are retiring in droves, hoping to contest the polls.
On Monday, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) announced that they would stand alone in Puducherry, making it a three-cornered contest. Amongst the 30 candidates that the party announced, around 10 of them have never seen an election before, and of the 10, one is a retired government servant and another, a police officer.
G Panneerselvam who is contesting from the Nedungadu constituency in Karaikal was secretary to the chief minister, while AK Selvaraj, the party’s Oussudu seat candidate, retired as a sub inspector a few months ago.
Other parties, too, are fielding similar candidates. T Bairavasamy, formerly Superintendent of Police (Rural), who recently applied for VRS (Voluntary Retirement Scheme), plans to contest in Yanam, an enclave of the Union Territory in Andhra Pradesh, against the standing MLA Malladi Krishna Rao. Bairavasamy is hopeful of getting a ticket with the ruling NR Congress. “It was Mr Malladi who got me interested in politics, and he asked me to contest in Yanam two elections ago. However, since he was the Congress’ choice, I had to wait till this election. Now that I have applied for VRS, I will definitely contest, even if I have to stand as an independent,” he told Firstpost.
According to sources, there are a number of other candidates who were working in the police or the government who are waiting in the wings and had requested for tickets to contest in the 2016 Assembly Polls. K Theepanjan, who was earlier a junior engineer with the Public Works Department, for example, has approached both the Congress and the NR Congress for a seat. “We received an application from Mr Theepanjan for a seat in the Oussudu constituency, but on the day of the interview, he met with Chief Minister N Rangasamy to ask for a seat,” sources in the Congress said.
Also in the Oussudu (reserved) constituency, another retired police officer JE Saravana Kumar is said to have approached multiple parties for a seat.
Sources say that former managing director of PAPSCO (Puducherry Agro Products, Food and Civil Supplies Corporation) G Anbalagan had also approached the NR Congress for a seat. The ruling party though is yet to take a decision.
This election, voters expect to see several new faces. “Since 1996, many parties have started introducing businessmen and real estate brokers into politics. This year, it seems to have reached its peak, with every party introducing at least a few people who have no history in politics,” V Perumal, former CPM unit secretary said.
According to sources, since there are four major parties/alliances involved in the contest — NR Congress, Congress-DMK, AIADMK and People’s Welfare Front — who are planning to field candidates in the 30 constituencies, there is a rush for new faces, as they all need candidates.
Confusion prevails though, over which candidate will represent which party, with the alliances not yet being fixed in the union territory. The territory has 30 seats, including five in Karaikal (an enclave near Nagapattinam), and one each in Mahe (in Kerala) and Yanam (in Andhra Pradesh).
With only the AIADMK announcing its candidates in the UT, many candidates remain hopeful of a seat in either the NR Congress, or the Congress-DMK alliance, or possibly in the People Welfare Front. So far, the BJP has not announced their intentions, but it is expected that they will stand alone and field candidates in all 30 constituencies.
Several candidates have already jumped parties, and it is expected that the shuffling will continue until 22 April, when the lists of candidates are finalised. “Puducherry has had a history of candidates jumping parties, and most voters identify with the candidates more than with the party. Since there are only a limited number of seats, this is to be expected,” D Ramachandran, former chief minister and now a political analyst, said. Ramachandran added that it was possible that many strong candidates would be forced to stand as independent candidates, since the seats in many parties were being filled fast.
Sources say that in many of the constituencies, candidates who are not given tickets by any party plan to stand as independent candidates. “In the Lawspet constituency, for example, there are two candidates vying for a seat with the NR Congress: M Vaithianathan, the current MLA, and Nandha T Saravanan, the Muthialpet MLA. Although Saravanan is from another constituency, he has been working in the Lawspet area for the past four years, and he is trying for a seat in that constituency,” sources said, adding that if either of them is not given a ticket, both of them will have to contest as independent candidates.
Another area of contention is in Karaikal South. Karaikal is one of the enclaves of the UT located near Nagapattinam. Here, the former Puducherry Pradesh Congress Committee president AV Subramanian has approached the Congress for a ticket. The current MLA, AMH Nazeem, has also asked for a seat from the same constituency. “We are still in talks with DMK to decide the seat allotment, and will take a decision after that,” Puducherry Pradesh Congress Committee president A Namassivayam said.