Won’t demand Kiran Bedi’s substitution or recall: Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy
Amid the confrontation with Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi, CM V Narayanasamy says the BJP is murdering democracy.india Updated: Jul 06, 2017 20:15 IST
For seasoned Congress leader V Narayanasamy, 70, his stint as the chief minister of the union territory of Puducherry is proving his most challenging assignment. The man with a decade of exposure to the workings of the central government as a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office has had to dig into all his experience amid his government’s ongoing confrontation with Lt Governor Kiran Bedi.
With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruling at the Centre and sending Bedi as Lt Governor, the stage was set for confrontation. Bedi has been assertive and the CM, his ministers and MLAs have found her style of functioning overbearing and objectionable. The tussle for supremacy in Puducherry has reached a flashpoint following the nomination of three MLAs without consulting the CM.
In a telephonic interview to HT, Narayanasamy said some BJP leaders had dared him to go to court if he felt aggrieved. He said he was left with no option but to seek legal remedy. The CM is convinced that the decision will not stand legal scrutiny.
Were you prepared for a tense tenure after Kiran Bedi was posted as the Lt Governor?
I can work with anyone and adjust. So, I have no problems with anyone as long as they work within the Constitution and follow rules, regulations and established norms. I have met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Rajnath Singh, President Pranab Mukherjee and have apprised them of the situation here.
Under the rules of business of governance, as also the Union Territory Act, there is no scope for confusion at all. For state subjects, the Lt Governor has to act according to aid and advice of the council of ministers. For subjects in concurrent list, the Lt Governor has to work in consultation with the chief minister, and on central subjects, the government of India can take any decision. But the reality on the ground is there is interference in administration, summoning of officials, ignoring elected representatives and the elected government.
What is the crux of the problem? Isn’t the Lt Governor the final word when it comes to affairs of the union territory of Puducherry?
The problem is that the Lt Governor is acting like an agent of the BJP, such as in the nomination of three persons as MLAs to assembly without consulting the elected CM. It has never been done before in Puducherry. Out of the five times MLAs were nominated, on four occasions it was done as per the recommendations of the CM. Even when NR Congress was in power and UPA was at the Centre, then home minister P Chidambaram refused to accept nominations to assembly without the advice of CM N Rangasamy.
But now the BJP is bent upon flouting all democratic norms and nominating persons to assembly in complete disregard for norms and customs. The offices of governors are being used as extension of BJP offices, whether in Arunachal Pradesh or West Bengal, Goa or Manipur.
The BJP is murdering democracy. In fact, senior BJP leaders in Delhi have dared me to go to court and insisted that they will nominate whoever they like. A party colleague has moved the Madras high court on these illegal nominations. I am sure the court will give a befitting answer to the activities of the BJP through the institution of the governor and Lt Governor in the case of Puducherry. I have full faith in the judiciary.
Do you also see a parallel with the Delhi, where elected government of Arvind Kejriwal alleges that the Centre is stifling it? Do you sympathise with Kejriwal?
In the case of Kejriwal, matter is pending in court on the powers of CM and Lt Governor and it would not be proper for me to comment. What I am objecting to is that the central government is making a mistake in equating Delhi and Puducherry when it comes to taking decisions or interpreting rules to favour the Lt Governor.
The central government is wrong in its interpretation of rules of business of governance of Puducherry as also the provisions contained in the Constitution, which are clear and have a definite role for the CM of Puducherry.
Once the Madras high court decides on the petition challenging the nomination of three MLAs, it will be clear what the exact position is when it comes to the powers and duties of the elected CM and the Lt Governor. If the Centre is doing what it is doing, let me make it very clear that it is doing all this at its own risk. The Madras high court observation during hearing of the petition is along similar lines.
Kiran Bedi says she is not a rubber stamp Lt Governor and she has full powers to take action. And you say that CM, as the elected representative, is the executive head of the government. You held a key position in the central government too. What is the correct Constitutional position?
If you go by the Constitution, Rules of Business for governance of Puducherry as also the Union Territory Act, the Lt Governor has no independent power to administer the territory. We must be very clear, Puducherry is not equal to New Delhi and this is the mistake the central government is doing.
In Delhi, land, law and order and services are with the central government (Union home ministry). But in the case of Puducherry, land, law and order and services are with the state government. Article 239, 239 A and 140 1st provisio of the Constitution make it very clear that in state subjects, the elected government has powers and the Lt Governor has to act as per the advice of the CM. On subjects under concurrent list, it is through consultation with CM. And on central subjects, the Lt Governor can take a decision as guided by the central government. So a false impression is being created that Lt Governor is all-powerful and the elected government is a nonentity. But these things do not matter. Kiran Bedi can, at best, delay government decisions, but she cannot stop them.
Do you want the recall of Kiran Bedi?
I have a tremendous amount of patience and can work with anyone. But the person has to be working within the ambit of the Constitution and for the welfare of Puducherry. Everyone knows what is happening on the ground. But I will not make a demand for her substitution or recall.
Some parties such as the DMK, CPM and VCK have given a bandh call on July 8 to protest against Kiran Bedi. Is your government supporting the bandh?
No. How can I as the chief minister and head of the government support a bandh? The Congress party has extended its support to the protest.