Kiran Bedi vs Narayanasamy: A Silent Tussle Brewing in Puducherry?
Not very long ago, when former bureaucrat and academic Najeeb Jung was the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, his recurring friction with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal hogged national headlines and television news primetimes.
A tussle, similar in both nature and magnitude to Jung-Kejriwal, is playing out between Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy and L-G Kiran Bedi. The only difference here is that it does not attract the same limelight despite having the same political undertones.
Bedi was the Chief Ministerial candidate for the BJP in 2015 Delhi Assembly elections. After losing to Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal, she was appointed as the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry in May 2016. The power struggle between Bedi and Narayanasamy has been going on since.
The ruling Congress, however, has found support from unusual quarters. It’s political rivals – the NR Congress and the AIADMK – also support the view of the elected government having the last say in administrative matters of the union territory.
An all-party delegation is set to meet the President and explain him the “political, legal and democratic norms” violated by Bedi.
This decision was taken on Tuesday after a unanimous resolution to the same effect was passed by ministers, leaders of Congress, AIADMK, DMK and NR Congress at an all-party meeting chaired by Public Works Minister A Namassivayam.
In the most recent show of defiance, Narayanasamy on Monday accused Bedi of standing in the way of Puducherry’s development by returning all the files being sent to the Governor’s office.
Saying that revenue to the exchequer had been falling and the government commitments rising, Narayanasamy accused Bedi of taking a “negative stand” against his government’s effort in securing funds from the Centre.
Merely a day before, on Sunday, Narayanasamy had said that the transfer of Puducherry Municipality Commissioner R Chandirasekaran, would stay in place. Rumoured to be close to Bedi, Chandirasekaran had been transferred on 30 March against Bedi’s wishes.
In the same Assembly session, A Anbazhagan an AIADMK legislator, verbally attacked Bedi saying she had been trying to push the Centre’s agenda and running the UT with a “handful of officials”. Congress member K Lakshminarayanan also alleged that Chandirasekaran had only been taking orders from Bedi and was working against the elected government.
There were reports hereafter about Bedi initiating action against the Chief Secretary for executing the transfer. However, the CM justified himself saying that he and his government were bound to comply and execute a ruling given by the Speaker and that it was not the Chief Secretary’s fault.
Before this in February, a delegation of cabinet ministers led by Narayanasamy had met President Pranab Mukherjee and told him how Bedi's style of functioning was "undermining the powers of elected representatives".
In response, Bedi stated on Twitter that she would refuse to be a mere “rubber stamp”. She also said that the Lt Governor’s office, unlike that of the Governor’s, enjoyed no immunity.
Another open rift between the state government and the L-G’s office played out in January when Bedi overruled an order by the CM’s office prohibiting the use of social media for official communication between bureaucrats. Bedi even tweeted out the notice of the same.
The CM had passed the order after AS Shivakumar, the registrar of Cooperative Societies, was suspended by Bedi for allegedly sending an obscene video in a WhatsApp group administered by the L-G’s office.
A case was registered against the officer and Bedi ordered his suspension.
The difference of opinion on usage of WhatsApp between the CM and the L-G’s office started surfacing soon after the government was elected. The CM objected then to social media usage by officials for administrative purposes and also questioned the intervention by the L-G in administrative matters.
In August 2016, Bedi gave a public statement where she accused that the ministers and officials of the Puducherry government were not cooperating on implementing the Union government’s Swachh Bharat initiatives. She also said that she would resign over the same issue.
(The story first appeared on The News Minute and has been republished with permission.)
Join The Quint on WhatsApp. Type “JOIN” and send to 9910181818.