Puducherry: There is total harmony between the office of Chief Minister and Lt. Governor of Puducherry, says V. Narayanasamy. In an interview to Deccan Chronicle’s Executive Editor R. Bhagwan Singh and Political Editor E.T.B. Sivapriyan, the Chief Minister spoke about his plans to make Puducherry the number one tourist spot in the country by introducing an offshore casino and a vessel service between Puducherry and Chennai.
In a wide-ranging interview that covered politics and his agenda for the next five years, Narayanasamy stressed the need to infuse industrial development into the Union Territory and bring IT-related industries to create employment for youth.
Talking politics, Narayanasamy said he was not parachuted by the Congress high command to the CM’s post but was elected by the MLAs in a democratic manner. Excerpts:
Q. What is the most challenging task ahead of you during your term as Chief Minister?
The main task is to bring the government back onto the rails because development was put on the backburner during the previous government (led by N. Rangasamy) and there was no accountability. Infrastructure development and industrial development just did not take place. Puducherry was suffering due to all these factors and breakdown of law and order. We have to correct the mistakes. Therefore, our priorities are bringing more industries, creating more employment, developing tourism industry and bringing more IT firms thereby bringing overall development to Puducherry.
Q. What are the problems that you could face while you try to achieve these goals?
The main challenge is the fund position of the Union Territory. Because the previous government did not utilise funds given by the Union Government and never showed interest in implementing centrally sponsored schemes. Moreover, before Puducherry opened a public account for itself, there was a loan due by the Home Ministry of Rs 2,177 crore, which they put on us. We have even paid Rs 1,300 crores as interest (to the Union Government). The Union Government has to pay us 1,200 crores in dues for implementing the recommendations of 6th Pay Commission and they have to give us Rs 500 crore for implementing the recommendations of 7th Pay Commission. The Government of India is not compensating us. We have limited revenue in Puducherry. Since the previous government did not give a push to industrial development, many industries closed their shops and went back. To mobilise resources, we are trying to work on several plans.
Q. One permanent complaint that any Puducherry CM has is that the Union Government does not help. Even Arvind Kejriwal is saying the same thing. What is your position?
The positions of Delhi and Puducherry are different, though both are UTs with legislature. Puducherry, under the Union Territories Act, 1963 and Section 44 it is very clear that Land, Law and Order and Services come under the State Government. The Lt Governor here has to act according to the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.
Q. How is your equation with your Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi? The CMs and the Lt Governors have always had problems here. She is a BJP nominee and you are a Congress Chief Minister.
She wants a prosperous Puducherry and we want a developed Puducherry and both coincide. And when she is playing the role of a Lt. Governor, she has to work within the parameters of the Constitution and we (the state government) have to work within the parameters of the Constitution. Therefore, there is no conflict since our powers are clearly defined in the Constitution and our goals now are common.
Q. You say you have no differences, but you and your Council of Ministers did not attend the Yoga celebrations presided by the Lt Governor?
I had told her in advance that we have a scheduled programme in Yanam enclave where we held a review meeting of all departments. Therefore, it was not something deliberate.
Q. What is the situation of your party (Congress) in Puducherry? There was lot of speculation about who will become Chief Minister before and after the Congress won the elections. And you were declared the CM.
See, the system in Congress party is that if we get a majority in the elections, the observers will come, get the views of the MLAs and convey to the high command. The high command takes the final decision. In my case also, majority of the MLAs supported me. After that the high command announced my name for CM’s post though I did not contest the elections. I was asked not to contest since all senior leaders, including the PCC chief and CLP leader, were contesting. The high command felt some senior leader should stay away from contesting and coordinate the election campaign and I was chosen for the job. Without coordination and campaign, no political party can wins any election. I played the role and since the high command thought it fit that I should be rewarded, so they rewarded me (with the post of Chief Minister).
Q. You are the blue-eyed boy of the Gandhis and is it helping you now?
(Laughs) As far as I am concerned, I am a Congress worker. Whatever the party leadership says that will be the final word for me. I will abide by the decision of the high command.
Q. How about the relations with Tamil Nadu?
We have to depend upon the governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and other southern states for industrial development in Puducherry. As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, I met the Hon’ble Chief Minister during the process of operationalisation of the Kudankulam project and she cooperated with the then UPA Government. Therefore, whenever issues come up, with the permission of the party high command I will go and meet her. Where is the problem?
Q. One major area where both Tamil Nadu and Puducherry can cooperate is in tourism sector and Puducherry is the gateway to many temple towns of Tamil Nadu? Are there any attempts to tap the sector?
Tourism is a big focus area for my government and we plan to have theme park, water sports and we will also explore the possibility of setting up an off shore casino like in Goa. We are also planning to encourage beach resorts along the coastline. Puducherry is a holy place because of Aurobindo Ashram and there are several ways to relax one’s self here and this place has a big shopping centre, which we are planning to develop further. So tourism is certainly one area where we will be collaborating with the Tamil Nadu Government.
Q. What are your plans regarding preservation of the old French art and architecture?
The French Ambassador was here to meet me last week and they are keen to work with us in maintaining the French architecture in the Union Territory. He has also promised investments to the UT and we are exploring the possibilities of exchanging delegations to promote cultural exchanges.
Q. There have been many complaints of land grab by Puducherry natives who are French citizens. What is being done to address their problems?
It was in the past and I agree. Safety and security of people of Puducherry is our topmost priority. I have told my police officers that there should be no compromise on the question of people’s security. And we are striving to make Puducherry a crime-free state. Crimes have reduced a lot in the past 25 days.
Q. What are your plans to revive the airport in Puducherry?
We need the support of the Tamil Nadu Government for expanding the airport since we are in need of additional land for extending the runway. We would like to revive flights from Puducherry to Kochi, Bangalore, Coimbatore and Madurai and eventually (start services) to Singapore.
Q. What are your plans to revive sea transport?
We would like to have a vessel service between Puducherry and Chennai. We can have entertainment facilities on the ship.
We have started our work. We must travel at a speed of 200 to 300 km to achieve all goals. We have also decided to collaborate with Chennai Port for movement of containers and we have begun the work of dredging at Puducherry port.