A standoff continued in the Union Territory of Puducherry, near Chennai, as the Chief Minister-led dharna outside Lieutenant Governor (L-G) Kiran Bedi’s residence to protest her alleged “negative stand” towards the Congress government entered the second day on Thursday, while Bedi left for Chennai in the morning.
Bedi is scheduled to travel from Chennai to New Delhi and return on February 20.
On Thursday evening, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, who began the sit-in with his Cabinet colleagues and ruling Congress MLAs on Wednesday morning, told The Indian Express that the protest will continue until the L-G replies to his letter listing 39 demands of the state government.
He had earlier said he was forced to sit on a dharna after Bedi failed to reply to the letter from an elected government even after days. He had slept outside Bedi’s residence on Wednesday night; DMK chief M K Stalin was among political leaders who extended support to the protest.
Narayanasamy also accused Bedi of stalling multiple decisions by the state government and “blocking crucial files”.
In Chennai, Bedi maintained that she had written to Narayanasamy on Wednesday, stating that she will meet him on February 21, after she returns to Puducherry.
Asked about the CM’s charges that she had blocked government files, Bedi said called the accusation wrong, and preferred to discuss the helmet rule and her efforts to implement it.
While Narayanasamy, referring to his letter with 39 demands, accused Bedi of diverting the issue —- “I would call the helmet rule the 40th issue; it’s not the main issue here,” he said —- the L-G on Thursday evening shot off a letter to the Union Shipping and Transport Minister and sought his intervention to stop the Chief Minister from playing “politics in road safety, to save any further loss of life on roads being caused by lack of political will”.
In reply, Narayanasamy told The Indian Express: “She is diverting issues and talking about the helmet rule. She has blocked so many crucial files that affects the people and welfare schemes. Out of my 39-charter letter, at least 13 demands are about her blockade of key welfare schemes. Due to her attitude, salary payments to cooperative employees, textile sugar and sugar mill employees have been stopped. I sent her nearly 20 letters in this regard. I compiled all of them and finally sent (the letter containing) these 39 demands last week.”
He said, “I sent the letter 15 days ago as she started blocking crucial files. She blocked the file of free rice scheme and asked us to pay money instead of rice to the people. It is a policy decision of an elected government…. Who is she to insist? She stopped salary distribution of workers in different cooperative agencies. They are without salary for some three months. She is also trying to block the system of salary payments to teachers in aided educational institutions in the Union Territory…”
Bedi said she is not aware of the reason for protest and accused Narayanasamy of starting a dharna in “an unlawful manner” instead of waiting for her reply.
She said Narayanasamy had sent the letter on February 7, and she received it the following day. Stating that the “method” of protest was unheard of for a person in Narayanasamy’s position, Bedi wrote, “…Besides you never said in your letter that unless you get a reply by February 13th you and your colleagues shall come and sit on a dharna outside.”