Puducherry Chief Minister on what prompted him to launch an indefinite stir against the Lieutenant Governor
As the agitation by the Congress government in Puducherry against the ‘dictatorial’ style of functioning of Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi entered its fifth day on Sunday, Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy spoke about what prompted him and other Ministers to take to the streets against Ms. Bedi. Excerpts from an interview:
Your government has been engaged in a running battle with Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi for the last two-and-a-half years. What prompted you to launch an agitation against her now?
Ever since Ms. Bedi took charge as the Lt. Governor, she has been blocking welfare schemes, including the free rice scheme and enhanced scholarship for Centralised Admission Committee (CENTAC)-selected SC students. She has also been blocking the release of grant-in-aid. Recently, the Cabinet decided to introduce a VRS scheme, as demanded by the staff of the century-old Anglo French and Swadeshi Bharati Textile Mills. However, Ms. Bedi, unbeknownst to the Cabinet, issued an order to close down the mills. This prompted the government to launch an agitation to expose her high-handedness.
For how long are you planning to continue your agitation?
We want her (Ms. Bedi) to go by the aid and advice of the Cabinet. She should shun her “I am the government” and “I know everything” attitude. Of late, she has been refusing to even refer proposals [regarding which she has] differences of opinion [with us] to the Government of India [as mandated by] the Rules of Business, Government of India, 1963. We propose to continue the agitation till all the issues that we raised in a letter to her on February 7 are addressed.
Hasn’t your protest affected the administration of the Union Territory?
Our agitation does not affect routine business. Files are being cleared by the Ministers from the protest venue.
There is a perception that your stir sends a wrong signal to motorists that they could compromise on safety by not wearing helmets. Even the Madras High Court has insisted on wearing helmets…
In the list of my demands, I have not raised this [helmet] issue at all. She [Ms. Bedi] has somehow twisted the matter to attract the attention of the Hon’ble Court. The helmet issue is not the issue over which we are holding a dharna. The Lieutenant Governor is trying to distract the media by raising this issue.
When and how do you propose to make the wearing of helmets mandatory for two-wheeler riders?
The court, in its judgment, asked [us] to conduct an awareness campaign before the rule was enforced. In fact, during the Traffic Awareness Week celebrations on February 4, I asked the police to conduct a campaign to educate the people [about the need for wearing helmets] for two months before implementing the rule. Ms. Bedi unnecessarily poked her nose into the affairs of law enforcement agencies. That is my only objection.
Ms. Bedi has accused your government of violating the rules for utilising grant-in-aid…
Grants-in-aid have been released for the past 50 years as per the rules. Suddenly, on carrying out a plain reading of the rules, she has decided to wrest financial powers. She has failed to trace the origin of her financial powers, which is actually from Rule 7(1) of the Rules of Business, which falls under Chapter -III, where [it is mandated that] the Lt. Governor has to act under the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. Based on her plain reading [of the rules] and her habit of misquoting, she claims that “I am the Financial Master of Puducherry”, which any man with common sense, upon reading Rule 6(1) of the Rules of Business, will deny. I have to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not appointing her the President of India. Otherwise, her plain reading and misquoting habit would have turned the country into a Presidential system of government.
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