New Delhi: The lone Lok Sabha seat in Puducherry, one of the seven union territories (UTs) in India, goes to the polls on 18 April. Its 959,785 voters put Puducherry among the states and union territories with the smallest electorate. Mint takes a look at its social and electoral numbers.

Where is Puducherry and what is its social structure?

Earlier known as Pondicherry, its original Tamil name, Puducherry, was restored in 2006. While most of India was a British colony, Puducherry was under French rule and was transferred to India in 1954. It integrated with India in 1963. Located 162km from Chennai, the UT comprises four districts: Puducherry, Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam. All the districts are popular with tourists for their tranquil and scenic beauty along the sea. Most of the people in Puducherry speak the local dialect of Tamil. A large number of people also speak French, a reflection of the rich culture and traditions.

Why should you go to Puducherry?

Puducherry has a cosmopolitan culture heavily influenced by the French and this is evident in the architecture, cuisine and lifestyle of the people. The place is famous for its leather and the people are known for handicrafts, including leatherwork, woodcraft, pottery and metal craft. It has some very good medical and engineering colleges such as the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research and the Pondicherry Engineering College. The Aurobindo Ashram is worth a visit because of its serenity and verdant surroundings. Some of the finest beaches in India are also to be found in Puducherry.

Why does its only Lok Sabha seat attract a lot of attention?

The relationship between Lt Governor Kiran Bedi and chief minister V. Narayanasamy has not been smooth. The two often spar over jurisdiction in administrative issues.

Which are the main political parties?

The Congress has mostly been in government in Puducherry, unlike Tamil Nadu, where regional parties hold sway. However, the Lok Sabha seat is held by R. Radhakrishnan of the All India NR Congress (AINRC), a regional party. The fight this time is between Congress’ V. Vaithilingam and AINRC’s K. Narayanasamy. The Congress is part of the Secular Progressive Alliance that includes DMK, MDMK and Left parties. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance includes AIADMK, PMK and AINRC.

What are the important issues?

The lack of jobs is a big issue. Puducherry’s only sugar mill in the cooperative sector was shut last year, but salaries of employees and dues to cane farmers remain unpaid. This has hit a large section of the people. Demonetization also had an adverse effect. A large section of the population depends on tourism for their livelihood. Small and mid-level firms in the tourism industry faced hardship in running their business due to the lack of cash. The implementation of the goods and services tax has also hit the people.

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