The almost five-year war of attrition between Puducherry Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy and Kiran Bedi came to an end on Tuesday when the President removed the latter as the Lieutenant Governor of the Union Territory and asked Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundarajan to stand in till “regular arrangements” are made. In an interview with BusinessLine , Narayanasamy, who is also fighting to save his government after few of his former Cabinet colleagues and legislators jumped ship to join the BJP, spoke on what Bedi’s exit means for him, his demand for statehood for the UT, Congress’ equation with alliance partner DMK and other issues. Excerpts:
The removal of Bedi was one of your long-standing demands? Now that it has happened, what’s your reaction?
Bedi’s removal from office has come as a new dawn for the people of the UT. She blocked our government’s policies; she delayed projects; and she kept sending back all files with a query or note. As a result, we were not able to carry out any developmental work. So the people are now heaving a sigh of relief.
And you had a very turbulent relationship with her personally…
Yes. But I met her several times both alone and with my Cabinet colleagues. I told her that she has certain powers, and we have certain powers, but we should work together for the people’s welfare. But Bedi tried driving a wedge between the Ministers and me and wanted to do her own politics. Once she realized that it is not working, she started issuing orders to officials unilaterally, threatening them, going against our recommendations on official postings, ignoring our counsel completely and listening only to the Chief Secretary and other secretaries and so on. This turned the people against her. Having said that, the UT ‘escaped’ only because we kept fighting her.
But why remove her now?
With elections around, the BJP has realized she is a liability. But even otherwise, we won the Parliamentary election with a thumping majority. We won two byelections too. So with or without Bedi, BJP has no future in Puducherry.
You have also spoken about boycotting the election till your demand for statehood is met. Has anything changed?
No, we stick to our stand that we should get statehood. But the BJP government has rejected our demand. It’s a pity that when elected representatives remain powerless, the nominated authorities throw around their weight. We will continue to press for statehood.
And do you think you will be able to ride out the political storm that you are currently facing [In the 30- member Puducherry Assembly, the Congress has been reduced to 10 members with 4 legislators joining the BJP]?
It’s a big deal that we ran the government these five years! We were fighting Bedi and the Modi government, which is trying to unseat us. We lost lots of time doing these. We managed only because of the public and our cadre’s support and the cooperation extended by our alliance partners.
So you think you can do it [prove majority]?
We walk into the Assembly with our members who we think are close to us. But let’s see what happens.
You spoke about your alliance partner. But DMK, of late, has been talking about forming a government on their own under the leadership of Jagatratchagan (an MP representing the Arakkonam constituency). Are you happy with your relationship with the party?
It is their ideology [forming a government of their own]. But I am grateful for the support extended by the party so far. Though only our party high command and the DMK leadership will decide on the alliance, I wish it should continue.
What about your poll prospects…
BJP’s communal agenda will not work in Puducherry. Our alliance will surely win.
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