Puducherry power tussle: CM V Narayanaswamy launches fresh stir against L-G Kiran Bedi

Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy, leading a secular democratic front began a four-day agitation near the Maraimalai Adigalar Salai in Puducherry, demanding Kiran Bedi's immediate recall.

In a fresh power tussle between Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy and Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi, a secular democratic front led by the former began a four-day agitation near the Maraimalai Adigalar Salai, demanding the latter’s immediate recall. The ruling alliance, led by the Congress, has accused the lieutenant governor of interfering in the day-to-day affairs of the government and impeding its development plans.

Revenue minister MOHF Shajahan, MP Vaithiyalingam and senior leaders of alliance partners CPI, CPI(M), VCK, as well as others joined hands in the protest. However, the DMK, Congress’s bigger alliance partner in the government, did not take part in the agitation.

The protest was earlier planned near Raj Nivas (the residence of the lieutenant governor) but was shifted after police denied permission to hold it there. Magistrate Purva Garg on Wednesday imposed regulatory orders, banning protests without prior permission. Further, the magistrate declared that no demonstrations, agitations, and rallies can take place within 500 meters of critical establishments, including the L-G’s residence, legislative assembly and camp office-cum-residence of the CM and his cabinet colleagues, among other installations.

On Thursday, the police asked the director of higher and technical education to issue an advisory to all students to refrain from participating in the protest against the lieutenant governor. The direction came in the wake of an incident a few weeks earlier where police allegedly used force to disperse students taking part in a protest organised by the Congress, demanding that the Centre sanction 10 percent reservation for government school students in MBBS course.

According to local reports, close to 800 members of the Central Armed Police Force and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel have been deployed at vantage points to maintain law and order during the agitation.

Narayanaswamy and Bedi, the former Delhi top cop, have been at loggerheads over a period of time. Ever since Bedi took office as the lieutenant governor, there has been a constant war of words between the two of them. In July 2017, members of the Congress protested against the induction of three nominated members of the BJP into the Assembly by the Centre without the approval of the chief minister. Narayanaswamy accused Bedi of functioning in an undemocratic manner and even called her a ‘BJP agent’.

Earlier, in 2018, Bedi kicked up a controversy after she announced that the government’s free rice distribution scheme to villagers would be made conditional to the certification that the village is free from open defecation, garbage and plastic. The CM claimed Bedi’s move was against the National Food Security Act, 2013 which ensures free rice as a statutory right for 75 percent of the rural population. He added that the lieutenant governor cannot issue an order and implement it without his consultation and she will face the necessary consequence.

Again, in 2019, a similar protest was staged by the CM demanding reopening of closed industrial units and public sector undertakings. On December 31, 2020, Bedi objected to the government’s move to allow New Year celebrations in view of the pandemic and urged the government to ban it. She posted a video on her Facebook page saying there are no celebrations in Puducherry and asked people from Tamil Nadu and other neighbouring districts not to enter the Union Territory and risk being super-spreaders. “Stay at home and celebrate the New Year,” Bedi said.

However, Narayanaswamy was firm on his decision and said no one had the power or authority to ban New Year celebrations, adding that the UT is linked intrinsically with French culture and has a separate identity.

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