The turf war between Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi and the Congress government here took a new turn with Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy, his Cabinet colleagues, and Congress and DMK MLAs launching an indefinite dharna in front of the Raj Nivas on Wednesday to protest against the “dictatorial” style of functioning of Ms. Bedi.
Shortly after arriving from Mahe on Wednesday morning, the Chief Minister convened a meeting of Ministers and party MLAs at the Legislative Assembly. After the meeting, Mr. Narayanasamy, Ministers and MLAs walked to the Raj Nivas, which is just a stone’s throw away from the Assembly, and squatted on the road.
The agitation forced the Lt. Governor to stay put at Raj Nivas cancelling her evening engagements.
It is learnt that Ms. Bedi has requested the Union Ministry for Home Affairs to depute Central forces for Raj Nivas security.
By evening, the agitation turned into a siege of the Raj Nivas with the main gate being blocked by a group led by the Chief Minister and rear entrance by Public Works Minister A Namassivayam and Minister for Health Malladi Krishna Rao. The leaders decided to continue with the dharna throughout the night.
The Lt. Governor and the Chief Minister had been engaged in a war of words for the last two-and-a-half years but the immediate provocation for the agitation appeared to be the decision of the Lt. Governor to “unilaterally” enforce the helmet rule on February 11.
The Chief Minister told presspersons in front of the Raj Nivas that the decision had been taken without consulting the government.
“I wanted to implement the rule after having a sustained awareness campaign on the need to wear helmet. On February 4, while participating in a function, I asked the police to carry on a campaign for at least two months. Immediately after I gave the direction, the Lt. Governor put pressure on the police to implement the rule,” he said.
The Chief Minister said Ms. Bedi was functioning as an “agent” of the Bharatiya Janata Party to destabilise the Congress government. She had blocked all welfare schemes, including distribution of free rice, with the sole aim of tarnishing the image of his government, he said. The area surrounding the Raj Nivas was tense as a large number of Congress workers started gathering there. near the protest site.
Several leaders representing the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi joined the stir.