Puducherry comes to a halt as Congress protests L-G Kiran Bedi’s meddling
In response to a call given by major political parties in protest against the nomination of three BJP members to the legislature by Lt Governor Kiran Bedi, Puducherry came to a complete halt on 8 July.
The bandh was called mainly by the ruling Congress and was backed by its ally, the DMK, as well as Left parties, as the nominations completely bypassed the elected Congress government.
Significantly, the All India NR Congress did not take part.
The protestors took out rallies in Puducherry town and burnt effigies of Bedi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They accused the Modi-Bedi combine of plotting to bring down the Congress government to help the BJP to come to power using undemocratic means.
Shops were closed and government offices reported less than normal attendance. Protestors stoned a few inter-state transport buses from Tamil Nadu. Puducherry has no government bus service of its own.
An ongoing feud
Bedi reportedly defiantly asked: “I have never heard of work stoppage for doing one's duty. If you have the guts, shut liquor shops which are causing domestic violence.”
Reacting to Bedi’s claim that she was only doing her duty to save the government, which is in financial distress, Chief Minister C Narayanasamy said she is functioning as an agent of the BJP and accused the Modi government of having nominated three BJP members without his consent or concurrence as was the normal practice.
In fact, not only did the Home Ministry pick the BJP nominees against the normal practice of choosing from a list of three names recommended by an elected government, it also let Bedi swear the nominees into office, thereby usurping the power of the Assembly Speaker.
The CM has repeatedly accused Bedi of using her discretionary powers to meddle with the administration.
Privileges and perks
The series of events has led the Narayanaswamy government to fear that this is part of an attempt to topple his government. In the 30-member Assembly, the Congress has 15 members and is backed by two DMK members.
The three nominated members have all the privileges and perks of elected members and can even vote on bills and on confidence motions. But they cannot vote when it comes to the Presidential election or the Rajya Sabha election.
So far, every government in Puducherry has taken the nomination route to bolster their majority in the Assembly. The only difference, unlike now, is that the nominees were chosen by the government and approved by the Centre
With the nomination of the three, the strength of the House has gone up to 33. The BJP with its three nominees can now destabilise the government with the support of the seven-member NR Congress and the four AIADMK members who, like in Tamil Nadu, are scared of antagonising Modi.
If the BJP can get 11 members on its side, with a total of 14, it can play mischief with the Narayanaswamy government. Puducherry has a longstanding tradition of MLAs shifting their loyalties.
Like in Tamil Nadu, the BJP is now waiting to make its next move after the Presidential election on 17 July.