The protest against the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry union territory (UT) Kiran Bedi for the alleged interference in governance is set to intensify in the coming days. Chief Minister V Narayanasamy will lead a series of agitation programs along with the alliance partners, demanding the recall of the Lieutenant Governor (LG).
After the four-day long protest, which began on January 8 and was withdrawn one day earlier than the schedule on January 10 citing difficulties for the public, the UT minister for social welfare has begun an indefinite sit-in protest in the legislative assembly demanding the LG to approve a list of files.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the trusted ally of the Congress in the UT and Tamil Nadu, has stayed away from all the protests. The party has, however, extended support to the demands raised by the Congress government.
MINISTER CONTINUES SIT-IN PROTEST
The government has accused the LG of preventing the welfare measures roll-out by various departments. The Social Welfare Minister M. Kandasamy has decided to continue the sit-in protest demanding the LG to approve 15 bills sent to her on January 9 for approval.
The minister has accused the LG of denying him permission to meet her to appraise on the details of the welfare measures submitted for approval. The files demanding the approval include the release of the remaining Rs 12 crore for civic amenities, clearance for increasing housing subsidy from Rs 4 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, fund allocation for residential schools and including 10,000 more additional beneficiaries under the old-age pension scheme.
The minister has alleged that the LG is preventing the welfare measures of the UT government from being implemented. The minister, in April 2020 held a sit-in protest in the Raj Nivas over the delay in permission for distribution of rice to Above Poverty Line (APL) families during the COVID-19 enforced lockdown.
CONGRESS AND ALLIES HOLD PROTEST
After a long history of tussle between the government and the LG, the CM, with the support of the alliance partners, had called for a four-day long protest, ‘Recall Kiran Bedi’, from January 8. The parties listed an array of allegations against the LG of overriding the powers of the elected government.
The LG is accused of preventing the 10% reservation for government school students in medical admissions, closure of public sector mills, delaying recruitment process in 9,200 existing vacancies and demanding the Union government to stop sanctioning funds to the UT.
CM Narayanasamy while addressing the agitations said, “The LG is functioning in an autocratic and undemocratic manner. She is blocking the welfare measures of the government and trying to stop the decisions of the cabinet. This is a total violation of the constitutional guidelines and the Union government must recall the LG who is unfit for the office”.
He went on to claim that the then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had asked for the removal of the LG when he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The senior Congress leader also accused the LG of worshipping the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and scrapping the rights of Puducherry.
The ruling Secular Democratic Alliance (SDA) partners have decided to restart and intensify the campaign in the UT after the Pongal festival. “The parties will hold a signature campaign on January 22, protest demonstrations in all constituencies on January 29, hunger strikes on February 5 and a bandh in the second week of February,” a statement said.
GOVT AND LG AT LOGGERHEADS SINCE 2016
The role of governors in the non-BJP ruled states and UTs have been obstructionist in nature, hampering the functioning of the governments. The role of Kiran Bedi is no different, the CM of Puducherry has alleged. The SDA allies listed different instances when the decision of the cabinet was frozen by the LG.
The CM and the LG were at loggerheads after both assumed offices in 2016. Bedi assumed office in May followed by the CM in June. The two were never on the same page, with the LG trying to dominate the proceedings.
On January 11, the CM moved the Madras High Court against the decision of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the LG on distribution of free rice, a poll promise of the Congress party. While the Ministry for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution accepted the government’s plan to distribute free rice, the MHA and LG had favoured cash transfer.
The LG is accused of being a functionary of the BJP as she nominated two BJP leaders and a BJP supporter to the legislative assembly in 2017, which was later upheld by the apex court. The nomination was done without consulting the government, alleged the leaders of the ruling party.