After the exit of Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung in Delhi, it is the turn of yet another Lt Governor to be making news. This one happens to be none other than the Bharatiya Janata Party’s defeated chief ministerial candidate in Delhi, Kiran Bedi, who had been sent off to be the central government’s representative in Puducherry.
The person at the receiving end happens to be yet another non-BJP chief minister, in this case Congress party’s V Narayanasamy.
Narayanasamy, known sniggeringly in political circles as Nari, meaning fox in Tamil, is a seasoned politician who chose to operate from behind the scenes in the latest bout, thereby kicking up a controversy as well as exposing the growing rift between the two.
A public spat
The recent tussle started with the suspension of a top Joint Secretary level officer of the administration, who had posted an objectionable video clipping in a WhatsApp group formed on the directions of the Lieutenant Governor and administered by a special officer on duty of Raj Nivas.
This WhatsApp group was also used for posting and issuing instructions and suggestions to the officials of various departments.
Officials were an agitated lot after the action against the officer, Registrar of Co-operative Societies AS Sivakumar, even after he admitted, and apologised for, sending the message inadvertently.
Sivakumar was suspended and a case booked under section 67A of the IT Act.
The Puducherry government came out with a circular, on the directions of Narayanasamy, urging government officials not to use social platforms like WhatsApp for administrative purposes.
Close on its heels, the Election Commission of India stayed the suspension of the official, pointing out that Sivakumar was an Electoral Roll revision officer and that he could not be suspended without the knowledge and consultation of the Commission.
Bedi, who chose not to question the order of the Commission, however cancelled the circular issued by the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms, under the directions of the chief minister, which had said:
“Strict compliance should be ensured by all concerned and violation, if any, of these instructions brought to notice shall invite disciplinary action and further penal action as per rules in force.”
The Lieutenant Governor responded by posting an “order”, without specifying any addressees, on Twitter:
The order said the circular had “been issued in contravention of guidelines, rules and policies etc. in force and is hereby declared null and void with immediate effect”.
Bedi followed this up with some more tweets in which she sought to explain her motivations.
Bedi, who was in Delhi for a visit, has in earlier messages made it clear that she had met various central ministers and apprised them of the latest developments.
All through these developments, the chief minister chose not to comment, despite the constant pestering of media persons for his comments. On earlier occasions too, Narayanasamy denied any rifts and maintained that both he and Bedi were working for the development of Puducherry and the welfare of its people.
Narayanasamy even denied any knowledge of his Cabinet colleague and Welfare Minister Kandasamy’s comment “seeking the recall of the Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi” by the Centre for acting in an “authoritarian manner”.
However, Congress legislators, after a meeting on Friday, petitioned Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, seeking appropriate action against Bedi. “Instead of settling conflicting views through mutual discussions,” they said, she “had become rigidly autocratic and uncompromising in her attitude”.
In their petition to the home minister, the legislators said Bedi assumed office when a new ministry was taking over the reins of Puducherry. Immediately after taking over, she had started directly issuing directions to the officers, the legislators said. “Conscious that she was new to the assignment and a former vibrant IPS officer, the elected representatives did not take any serious objections,” they wrote to the home minister.
However, even after the assumption of a regular Council of Ministers, her attitude did not change and went on in similar rampage by directly calling officers for daily spot visits, giving suo motu policy directions mostly in the nature of threatening the officers. The elected representatives were given scant respect, not even involved seriously in addressing local issues which are normally within the domain of the elected representatives of the constituencies,”
The petition went on to say that Bedi had “chosen an open collision course” and complained of her “rigidly autocratic, unethical, whimsical and dictatorship” style of running the administration.
Narayanasamy’s Congress party colleague, K Lakshminarayanan told reporters that the chief minister had been magnanimous in his approach with the LG, but that it was not reciprocated.