The idea, first mooted as a ₹200-crore project during Mr. Rangasamy’s 2001-08 term as Congress Chief Minister.
Seemingly intertwined with the fortunes of its mastermind, the long-pending proposal for the relocation of the 33-member Puducherry Legislative Assembly, from a heritage building in the French Quarter to a modern complex, has been strongly revived after N. Rangasamy began his record fourth stint as Chief Minister, this time as head of the Union Territory’s first NDA Government.
The idea, first mooted as a ₹200-crore project during Mr. Rangasamy’s 2001-08 term as Congress Chief Minister, had been on the backburner after he was ousted in 2008.
Though Mr. Rangasamy may tend to look at it more as an aspirational idea than a vanity project, the fact remains that his plans to relocate the Assembly to a modern complex in Thattanchavady formed part of his larger designs to develop the profile of his pet constituency, where he had already conceived a medical college. In fact, during that time, his opponents even derisively referred to him as the "Chief Minister of Thattanchavady".
An idea that moved in fits and starts:
The proposal for a new Assembly complex was revived when his breakaway party, the All India NR Congress stormed back to power in 2011 defeating the Congress. In 2013, the Revenue Department had even issued land acquisition notification for the construction of a Legislative assembly complex and Secretariat in Thattanchavady under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 that would give way to The Right To Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. However, no progress was made due to failure by the requisitioning department to sanction funds and the plan faded away from priority.
Now, with his return to power in the April 6 Assembly elections, the project has found a revival with the help of principal ally, the BJP.
Proposal gets a fillip:
The project got a fillip after Assembly Speaker R. Selvam spelt out the long-felt aspiration at a virtual meeting convened in June by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, and last week met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and made a case for a new integrated Assembly complex. Mr. Selvam’s predecessor, V. P. Sivakolundhu had also appealed for funds in a memorandum to the Lok Sabha Speaker in February this year, also flagging the fact that the Puducherry Assembly was not having a Secretariat as stipulated in Article 187 of the Constitution.
Targeted completion by 2023:
The integrated Assembly project, with a revised outlay of about Rs. 320 crore, envisages establishing a multi-storied complex on a 14-acre site to house the legislative assembly, Minister’s chambers and legislators’ offices. A formal project proposal is being prepared for submission to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
Preliminary work on the project, including relocation of government offices functioning at the identified site, is being expedited, according to the Speaker.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah has been invited for a ground breaking ceremony and to lay the foundation stone, along with Mr. Birla, soon after Independence Day. The timeline for completion of the project is 15-16 months.
Headed for a new chapter in legislative history:
When complete, the integrated complex would open a new chapter in the legislative history of the Union Territory.
According to official accounts, the Assembly sessions have been conducted in the present heritage building, which previously functioned as a medical college, since 1969 when the proceedings were moved here from the Mairie Hall.
This was the third legislative Assembly with S. Perumal as Speaker and M.O.H. Farook as Chief Minister after the passage of the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963 that led to the creation of a 30-member elected House with a stipulation that the Union Government may not appoint more than three nominated MLAs.
Before the merger, the Assembly was called the Representative Assembly. On August 16, 1962 India and France exchanged the instruments of ratification under which France ceded to India full sovereignty over the territories it held. Erstwhile Pondicherry and the other enclaves of Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam came to be administered as the Union Territory of Puducherry from July 1, 1963.
Through the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963, the members of the then Representative Assembly of erstwhile Pondicherry were deemed to have been elected to the Legislative Assembly. The Representative Assembly met as the Legislative Assembly for the first time on July 20, 1963.
While a new and modern facility for the UT Legislative Assembly may be a long-held aspiration, an inevitable requirement even, what sticks out is the revival of a backburner theme in the middle of a deadly COVID-19 pandemic that has upended lives and prompted demands for monetary support to all citizens from voices across the political spectrum.
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