Puducherry L-G Kiran Bedi finds herself in corner with political parties clamouring for her ouster

What started out as a public meeting where the local MLA was not invited has now culminated in a decision to send an all-party delegation to meet the president, prime minister and home minister to ask for Lieutenant-Governor Kiran Bedi’s dismissal. The decision was taken after an all-party meeting on Tuesday whose sole agenda was to discuss the functioning of the lieutenant-governor.

“The democratically elected government enjoys full power in Puducherry, but the lieutenant-governor has been hindering the functioning of the government,” K Lakshminarayanan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Chief Minister, said.

The trouble started last week, when Municipality Commissioner R Chandirasekaran allegedly called for a public meeting in Mudaliarpet. The meeting was to discuss civic issues in the area. “The meeting was called without the knowledge of the local MLA, A Baskar, who found out about the meeting and asked Chandirasekaran why he had not been called,” Lakshminarayanan said.

Following this, Chandirasekaran filed a complaint with the police against the MLA, allegedly on the instigation of the lieutenant-governor, stating that Baskar had threatened him.

The issue of the meeting was brought up in the Assembly session. Assembly speaker V Vaithilingam ruled that Chandirasekaran’s appointment as municipal commissioner should be put on hold until he appeared before a Privilege Committee to justify his actions, and the Chief Secretary appointed an interim commissioner. “Government servants need to obtain permission from their immediate superiors if they are being threatened by an elected official, and Chandirasekaran should have received permission from the Chief Secretary before he filed a police complaint. The Speaker did not transfer the officer, nor did the Chief Secretary replace him. These were all interim arrangements until the Privilege Committee met,” Lakshminarayanan explained.

File image of Kiran Bedi. PTI

File image of Kiran Bedi. PTI

On Monday, when the commissioner in-charge reported to duty, he found that Chandirasekaran had also arrived for duty. Bedi in the meanwhile had sent a note signed by her secretary reversing the order of the chief secretary. The note also asked for a compliance report from the chief secretary.

Following this, the Assembly Speaker issued orders to consider Chandirasekaran and the secretary to Lieutenant Governor Theiva Neethi Das as being in contempt of the House. The Privilege Committee has summoned both of them, and a contempt notice has been sent.

A three-hour long all-party meeting was called on Tuesday to discuss Bedi's conduct. “This is not the first time the lieutenant-governor has overturned an order issued by the elected government. We want to protect the powers and privileges of the Legislative Assembly and its members,” TPR Selvam, representative of the All India NR Congress, the main Opposition party, told media persons after the meeting. Around 21 parties adopted the resolutions of the meeting, but the BJP and the PMK were conspicuously absent.

At loggerheads

This is not the first time that the lieutenant-governor and the elected government have had problems, R Rajasekar, senior journalist said. The two have been tussling over various issues ever since the new elected government took charge in 2016. “Earlier this year, the chief minister and the lieutenant-governor had an issue over the suspension of a civil servant who allegedly sent obscene videos to a WhatsApp group administered by the Raj Nivas. Since then, things have only gotten worse,” he says. The previous argument led to both chief minister and lieutenant-governor visiting New Delhi, and the lieutenant-governor writing an open letter to the public stating that she would resign in 2018.

Since then, there have been a number of problems with the movement of files, and the issuing of contracts for the dredging of the harbour mouth, Rajasekar says. “(Chief Minister) Narayanasamy has been consulting with various lawyers and advisers to understand his powers of Puducherry’s elected government,” he said. In this case, however, the lieutenant-governor has not directly signed the note cancelling the chief secretary’s order, but instead had her secretary sign it.

“The lieutenant-governor has been issuing all her orders through Twitter, WhatsApp and other social media. So far, there are a number of files pending approval, and she has empowered some government servants to act without consulting their superiors. There has to be some clear demarcation between the functioning of the lieutenant-governor and the elected cabinet,” Lakshminarayanan added.

In retaliation, Kiran Bedi has taken to Twitter yet again. “The irresponsible and immature conduct of the Chief Secretary has brought huge anguish and rift in the Governance of Puducherry,” a tweet on 5 April reads.

Another tweet reads “Am repeatedly seeing first hand why India is weak despite being a demographic dividend. It is its governance. Foul eggs in high positions.”

Updated Date: Apr 06, 2017 11:37 AM

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