Bypoll outcome a litmus test for Cong govt: Observers

File PTI photo Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy (C) leads a two-wheeler rally in support of Congress by-poll candidate from Kamaraj Nagar legislative

The outcome of the byelection held on October 21 for Kamaraj Nagar assembly constituency would be a litmus test for the performance of the Congress government since its formation in 2016, according to observers. The bypoll was a crucial fight between the ruling Congress and the opposition AINRC, they say.

The counting of votes polled would take place on Thursday and observers point out that the result would have a bearing on the future of both the Congress and the AINRC particulary in the 2021 Assembly polls. The percentage of polling during the byelection was 69.44 which was less than the percentage of polling registered in the 2016 election to the territorial Assembly by nearly seven per cent.

The frequent turf war between the Chief Minister V Narayanasamy and the Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi on various administrative issues had virtually left the people in the Union Territory dispirited.

Mutual accusations, including the latest one relating to failure to use helmets, on the part of both the Lt Governor and the Chief Minister involved much of the time of the two constitutional functionaries.

The strength of the Congress in the wake of the polls held in 2016 was 15 in the Assembly which totally has 30 elected and three nominated members.

When the incumbent legislator of Kamaraj Nagar V Vaithilingam (Congress) quit the post following his election to Lok Sabha in April this year the Congress` strength came down to 14 and the government enjoys the crucial support of the three-member DMK from the outside.

The strength of the AINRC in the 2016 Assembly poll was eight, but after one of its legislators, Ashok Anand was disqualified in November last year after he was convicted in a CBI case relating to alleged amassing of assets disproportionate to known sources of income the AINRC strength came down to seven.

Thus if Congress retains Kamaraj Nagar seat its strength in the Assembly would be restored to 15.

Similarly if on the other hand, the AINRC wrests the seat from the Congress it would also have restoration of its strength to eight.

The AINRC has as its alliance partner the Bharatiya Janata Party (which has three nominated members in the Assembly) in the Lok Sabha poll held in April, the byelections held in Thattanchavady simultaneously with the parliamentary poll and in the recent byelection in Kamaraj Nagar.

The byelection was a `prestige fight` between the Congress and AINRC in general and between the Chief Minister and founder of the AINRC N Rangasamy who is also an opposition leader in particular.

The poll outcome would not have an immediate impact on the stability of the Congress government, a senior political leader points out.

Rangasamy was seen engaging himself in the poll campaign seeking support for the AINRC nominee S Bhuvaneswarane along with the leaders of the AIADMK and other likeminded parties more vigorously than virtually in any of the polls held before.

Narayanasamy was also at the forefront of the campaign along with other Ministers and leaders of the DMK and other fraternal parties.

Whenever an election either for the territorial Assembly or for Lok Sabha seat is held here Chief Minister had never failed to associate the DMK president M K Stalin in the poll campaign.

Thus the ruling Congress and the opposition AINRC wait with bated breath for the outcome of the byelection, observers say.

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