Amid growing noise over reported overreach by Lt Governor Kiran Bedi, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy Saturday asserted that there was no “clash” between his ministry and Bedi, and that both were functioning within powers demarcated for them in the Constitution.
His statement came after growing talk of Bedi interfering in administration of the UT, including directly communicating with officers on WhatsApp and meeting Congress leaders considered the CM’s rivals. On Tuesday, Narayanasamy had convened a meeting and reminded officers about protocol to be followed in handling official matters, especially not bypassing ministers.
The AAP was among the first to point out that the controversy has shades of the confrontation between Lt Governor Najeeb Jung and the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi. The party Saturday said Bedi, who was BJP’s CM candidate against Kejriwal, was “rejected by the people of Delhi… and (as L-G) issues orders that should be taken by an elected CM”.
Recently, Congress leader and Puducherry Assembly Speaker V Vaithilingam, who was among contenders for the CM post, took residents of his constituency to meet Bedi over a civic issue. MLAs from other parties have also approached her directly, seeking her intervention in clearing, among other local civic issues, an encroachment on stormwater drains.
Bedi herself makes rounds of Puducherry markets to know the prices of items. Recently, she announced a ‘Prosperous Puducherry’ mission to clean the Union Territory, and invited actor Rajinikanth to be its ambassador.
“She has drafted plans for traffic management, the beach road has been cleaned on her direction, and she calls us the moment she gets a tweet from the public on anything,” a senior secretary said.
A leader close to Narayanasamy said the CM has given Bedi a long rope. “Her market visits, direct interventions in civic issues or self-styled announcements through social media…he has no issues with those. But what should a CM do if she takes government files directly to her office, summons officials to her chamber, and gives them directions on WhatsApp,” he asked. Asked about Bedi’s alleged interventions, former Puducherry CM N Rangaswamy said, “That is fine.”
Narayanasamy said, “Some of these reported incidents are a bit exaggerated. Even on Friday night, I had dinner with her…. There are certain rules and procedures regarding powers of an elected government and an L-G, (and) there wouldn’t be any issues as long these are followed.”
Bedi admitted creating multiple WhatsApp groups for various sectors, and said these were to speed up communication.