Ever since Kiran Bedi assumed charge of Puducherry as Governor, her message to the people of this former French colony has been clear: strive for a ‘prosperous and clean Puducherry’. Bedi’s comments on Sunday, however, raised eyebrows as she threatened to quit from her post if the people and the government doesn’t support in her endeavour to cleanup the union territory.
“I am not here for a job but on a mission. If the mission is not accomplished I will go back. I will quit if you don’t help me make Puducherry clean,” Bedi said. This led to the chief minister issuing a statement that all is well between his government and the office of Lieutenant-Governor. Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy Monday reiterated once again that they have common goals between them and the relationship has been nothing but cordial.
It was, however, not the first time Narayanaswamy was forced to clarify. In July, the Puducherry government faced similar allegations from parties such as the Aam Aadmi Party and AIADMK that L-G Bedi regularly interferes in the functioning of the government. AAP went to the extent of drawing parallels between the working style of L-G Najeeb Jung in Delhi and Bedi, and accused the Narendra Modi government at Centre of becoming a serious threat to democracy.
“Kiran Bedi ji has said that her writ runs in Puducherry. She gives messages on Whatsapp groups, Twitter. Officers, including the police chief, is summoned and told that they should listen to her. Modi ji’s government has become a serious threat to the democracy and the Constitution and has no faith in elected government,” AAP leader Sanjay Singh had alleged.
Some of the allegations might have merit as L-G Bedi admitted to creating multiple WhatsApp groups for various sectors, and said these were to speed up communication. But it is unclear whether she is actively bypassing the democratically elected government to ensure that work gets done faster. The Indian Express previously reported that the chief minister gave a long rope to L-G Bedi and he has no issues with her directly intervening in civic issues as long as protocol is maintained.
When asked about these allegations, Chief Minister Narayanasamy had said, “Some of these reported incidents are a bit exaggerated. 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.”
His statement came amid growing talk of Bedi interfering in administration of the UT as MLAs from Congress and other parties lined up at her door to resolve civic issues. Congress leader and Puducherry Assembly Speaker V Vaithilingam was one among them as he recently took residents of his constituency to meet Bedi over a civic issue.
Bedi had taken a keen interest in local civic issues, particularly grievances involving garbage removal. The Governor is not averse to rolling up her sleeves and getting her hands dirty as she took up multiple cleanliness drives in Puducherry. Within two months of taking charge, she joined sanitary workers and volunteers to remove garbage along the stretch of a local beach. On World Environment Day in June, wearing mask, hand gloves and a yellow coloured cap, Bedi removed garbage along with the municipal workers at Lal Bahadhur Sastri street and Gingee Salai.
“I will take up the operation garbage work every Sunday along with the civic workers as my intention is to ensure that Puducherry becomes a clean city. Police and civic workers are most important sections and the welfare of the personnel attached to these two wings should be taken care of,” she had said.
Even Tamil superstar Rajnikanth was invited by Bedi to become the brand ambassador of the UT to promote cleanliness among its people. Bedi also began a novel initiative by forming the “Swachh Bal Sena” where children have been appointed as watch dogs to ensure that adults do not litter in the streets. “Puducherry will be the first Union Territory to have such senas and children will be given yellow coloured whistles. They will blow them whenever they see elders throwing garbage on streets and drainage outlets or damaging the environment through open defecation,” Lt Governor Kiran Bedi said.
She has also been actively urging people on Twitter to strive for a garbage-free Puducherry by participating in cleanliness drives. “Dear Puducherians. I have not come to live in Rajnivas but work from Raj Nivas to make Puducherry clean & safe. Join in or Puducherry suffers”
“This is a clarion call to every Puducherrian to fulfil their responsibility to keep the place clean.Youth/Community leaders must emerge/lead,” she tweeted.