Kiran Bedi’s ouster is a result of her failure to stick to her constitutionally mandated role
The removal of Kiran Bedi as Puducherry’s Lieutenant Governor has provided a sense of relief to the elected government, led by the Congress, in the Union Territory. Her acrimonious relationship with Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy over the last four and a half years, eventually led the Centre to being forced to act against its own nominee to enable smooth administration at a time when the announcement of the Assembly elections is just round the corner. Despite her laying emphasis on sanitation, rejuvenation of waterbodies, and transparency and accountability in the administration, Ms. Bedi ended up, in the eyes of the public, being someone who was disrupting administration. Her many differences with the CM were well known. Be it the suspension of an official over obscenity on social media, the helmet rule for two-wheeler riders, the free rice scheme, the appointment of the State Election Commissioner, the quota for government students in medical admission, or even the manner of release of money from the CM’s Fund, she was caught up in a war of words with the CM instead of being more discreet. She should have shown more restraint as a constitutional functionary and adopted a consensual approach on matters affecting the people directly, even though the Lt. Governor in a Union Territory, as the President’s nominee, enjoys powers superior to those of the CM and the Council of Ministers. Though it was an amusing sight of the CM holding “dharnas”, not once but twice in the last couple of years, the fault was not entirely his own. All along, he regarded the Lt. Governor as a political adversary, with his political activity centred around her. His demand for her ouster grew louder in recent months. It is likely that the Bharatiya Janata Party, which aims to build a base in Puducherry, concluded that her continuation in office in the backdrop of the Assembly elections could prove a political liability.
Her exit comes at a time when Puducherry is in the midst of political instability. The strength of the Congress-led coalition (including the Speaker) is now on a par with that of the Opposition, after four party MLAs, including two Ministers, quit the Assembly since January. On assuming charge as the officiating Lt. Governor on Thursday, Tamilisai Soundararajan, the Telangana Governor, ordered a floor test to be held on February 22. Dr. Soundararajan, who is perceived to be cordial towards political leaders of all hues, is expected to restore some measure of cohesion between Raj Nivas and the rest of the official machinery, irrespective of the outcome of the floor test. Ms. Bedi’s innings in Puducherry should serve as a lesson to those in constitutional positions that however well meaning one’s actions may be, one should not go beyond the mandated role.