V Narayanasamy: Propped up by Congress HQ, done in by BJP HQ

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Outgoing Puducherry chief minister V Narayanasamy was propped by yesteryears’ Congress establishment in Delhi but done in by Delhi’s new political order of the BJP. The downfall of the Congress regime in the Union Territory also means the party would experience a rare ‘power cut’ across south India.

It is no coincidence that ‘Samy’ lost power less than three months after the demise of Ahmed Patel, his long-time handler. It advertises the generational dip in AICC’s craftsmanship in political management during transition of power from the Sonia establishment to the ‘energetic talent-pool’ of Rahul Gandhi.

Compared to the heat and dust Samy’s ‘coronation’ kicked up in Delhi in 2016, his resistance to his ouster was tame and colourless. In the post-poll days of 2016, many Congress MLAs, already in majority with backing of DMK and Independents, camped in Delhi to lobby for the CM post. Though not an MLA, Samy pipped then PCC chief and CM face A Namasivayam by deftly working on his USP of being a loyalist of the Gandhi family. His insight into the working of the Congress system saw him loyally cultivate 10 Janpath for blessings before offering himself as a dedicated soldier of the ‘General’ who lived on Mother Teresa Crescent Road. It had already earned him the key ministry of personnel in the UPA regime.

Unlike his Puducherry Congress rivals, Samy’s long stint in Delhi’s power corridors taught him to patronise. The CM used the skill to win over and cultivate MLAs who were not favourably inclined to him, though he alienated many senior Puducherry Congress leaders and their dominant Vanniyar caste.

A Gandhi family loyalist for around 50 years, Narayanasamy rose from very humble origins. He managed to impress Rajiv Gandhi, to earn his first Delhi break in the 80s, like many ‘seniors’ of the day. As the CM too he showed his loyalty when he once dutifully held a pair of slippers for Rahul Gandhi after he had to take off his shoes on a water-logged street.

Yet, behind such deceptively simpleton mannerisms, which includes greeting anyone with an “enna Sare, namaskaram”, lies a shrewd politician who knew how to survive until he met lieutenant governor Kiran Bedi, whom the Modi regime had picked to quarantine him off the ‘avenues of patronage’ for which Puducherry politics was known for. With the CM encircled by the L-G, and his Delhi connections vanishing under the saffron establishment, it was just a matter of time before his in-house rivals jumped ship. The Centre coordinated the moves by replacing Bedi with Tamilisai Soundararajan to destroy Samy’s ‘anti-Bedi’ plank and provide Puducherry with a taste of a ‘Tamil-flavoured’ central rule in the run up to the April-May assembly polls. It leaves Narayanasamy and the Congress with the tasks of preparing for elections against a tactical formation comprising the All India NR Congress, BJP and AIADMK, amid the party’s complicated ties with the Vanniyars and with competing ally DMK for company. For Narayanasamy, the assembly polls present a battle he will have to fight alone without his ‘made-in-Delhi’ armour. But trust him to go for the last throw of the dice by playing the sympathy card, post-toppling.

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