Ruling Cong, allies in Puducherry stages protest seeking recall of Lt Governor Kiran Bedi

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(Eds: Adds details, updates with allies resolution) Puducherry, Jan 8 (PTI) The ruling Congress-led Secular Democratic Alliance (SDA) in Puducherry on Friday began its four-day long agitation here demanding recall of Lt Governor Kiran Bedi, accusing her of 'impeding developmental plans and welfare measures of the elected government.' Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, who took part in the agitation, alleged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bedi 'hatched a conspiracy to dismantle the separate (union territory) status of Puducherry and merge it with Tamil Nadu.' He accused the Prime Minister and Bedi of being keen on depriving the people of Puducherry of their rights, a charge already rubbished by the Lt Governor.

'Our fight for our rights would continue and we would not be cowed down by any measure by the Centre,' the chief minister said in an emotional address to participants at the protest, being held months ahead of the assembly elections expected in April-May.

Bedi, a former IPS officer, and Narayanasamy have been at logger heads over various issues ever since she was appointed the Lt Governor in May 2016 with the ruling Congress accusing her of going against decisions of the government.

The Congress had in December, 2019 written to President Ram Nath Kovind seeking the recall of Bedi, who has maintained that being the Administrator of the Union Territory she was only discharging her duties as per law.

A resolution adopted by SDA later at the protest venue accused Bedi of requisitioning central forces, deployed here for maintenance of law and order during the agitation and urged the Centre to withdraw them.

Although the SDA had earlier decided to hold the agitation by picketing Raj Nivas (office-cum-residence of the Lt Governor), the venue was shifted to Maraimalai Adigal Salai (more than a km away).

The change was made as the police did not give permission in view of an order in force restricting agitations within 500 metres of Raj Nivas and the assembly.

Narayanasamy said the fight by the parties to seek recall of Lt Governor should be peaceful.

'We should draw inspiration from the farmers now holding agitations at the borders of New Delhi to urge repeal of the three Agriculture Reforms Bill,' he added.

Narayanasamy urged the people of the union territory to stand firmly and be prepared for any 'sacrifice' to ensure that the Centre recalled the Lt Governor Bedi as 'she has been obstructing several welfare schemes decided by the elected government ever since she assumed office in 2016.' Apart from Narayanasamy, the lone Lok Sabha Member from Puducherry V Vaithilingam, AICC Secretary Sanjay Dutt, Congress legislator T Jayamoorthy, leaders of the CPI, CPI(M) and VCK also participated in the protest.

However, leaders and workers of the DMK, an ally of the Congress, were conspicuous by their absence.

The Centre has deployed the Central Armed Police Force and the Central Industrial Security Force personnel at vantage points here to maintain law and order in view of the dharna.

Although the Chief Minister earlier said the agitation would continue 'till Kiran Bedi left Puducherry', the duration of the stir has been reduced to four days.

This is the second time that such an agitation against Bedi is being held here with the Chief Minister and his ministerial colleagues and leaders of the alliance parties taking part.

The earlier stir was held in February 2019 also to push the demands for reopening of the closed industries and public sector undertakings and also for smooth operation of the free rice scheme.

The present dharna is limited to the demand that Bedi be recalled, sources in the Congress said.

The resolution adopted at the protest venue on Friday said deployment of central police forces belittles the efficiency of the local police.

The district Collector had enforced order under section 144 CrPC from Thursday at the 'dictates of Bedi' to prevent the democratically justified agitation, the resolution alleged.

'The Puducherry government is already reeling under severe fiscal crisis and the expenditure being incurred because of the 1,500 personnel of the Central para military forces towards their wages and also allied expenditure would add to the strain of the financial position,' it said.

Earlier, Narayanasamy and the others garlanded statues of leaders including former Chief Minister V Venkatasubba Reddiar before arriving at the venue of the protest. PTI COR SS NVG VS VS