Lieutenant governor of Puducherry, Kiran Bedi, has told this newspaper that she does not plan to run her office “as a post-office”.
Pointing to the powers the Constitution has bestowed on the office of the LG, Bedi also said she may chose to overlook the legislature if the situation is compelling and will have a say in the state budget. The LG, according to the Constitution, is the administrator of the Union Territory and she governs as representative of the President. Bedi thinks Puducherry, a UT, needs to be administered by her even if it has a legislative assembly, a council of ministers and a chief minister. She has cited Puducherry’s debt burden, the “imbalance” in the allocations of funds to rural and urban areas and so on to justify her intervention in governance.
But Bedi’s activism — some of her ideas on civic amenities are compelling — begs the question: Why must she make Raj Bhavan seem an active power centre? To say, as she has, that she “may or may not” consult the legislature shows a contempt for the Constitutional red lines between an Assembly and a Raj Bhavan. Surely, it makes no sense to have a legislature and a council of ministers if these are to be overruled by a hyper-active LG. If Bedi is to run the administration — she has designed an executive rule for herself and has ignored the chief minister’s plea that ministers not be bypassed to communicate directly with bureaucrats, especially through WhatsApp groups — the council of ministers will be reduced to a ceremonial institution feeding on public funds with no administrative role. This certainly could not be the role the Constitution envisaged for the legislature, even in a UT. Bedi’s approach, eerily similar to that former LG of Delhi, Najeeb Jung, took against the AAP government causing acrimony, is tantamount to overriding the public mandate and upsetting the balance of powers that the Constitution envisages between the LG and the legislature.
Bedi’s concern for governance in Puducherry is understandable but she ought to restrict her role to that of an advisor to the elected government. Her capabilities and enthusiasm will be better appreciated if they are directed to guide the administration than to appropriate the role of the chief minister and his council of ministers. Propriety and custom insist that the LG allows primacy in administration to the elected government.