Kiran Bedi, the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, and Chief Minister V Narayanasamy have been at loggerheads with each other on practically every issue concerning the southern Union Territory. In a late-night drama on Saturday, Kiran Bedi said that her office was "not in a position" to approve the proposal to distribute Pongal gifts to APL (above poverty line) families. This announcement came hours after Chief Minister V Narayanasamy warned her of "serious repercussions" if she did not concur with his government on the issue of distribution of Pongal gifts. Reacting to the chief minister's warning, Bedi said, "I am personally not afraid of anything."
The chief minister and his colleagues should realise that when a file is sent for approval it shall be read with "application of mind and rules as office of the Lieutenant Governor is not a rubber stamp," she said, adding it was "principally wrong for them to expect the Lieutenant Governor to be a mere endorser of their demands and views."
On January 1, the chief minister had said that he had returned a file on the Pongal gift hamper scheme to Bedi. He had also said the Lt Governor had "no authority" to take a decision contrary to the proposal of the government to extend the benefits of the scheme to all ration card holders.
On Friday, Narayanasamy said that Pongal hampers containing raisins, cashew nuts, and cardamom should be available free of cost to "all families without discrimination". He blamed the lieutenant governor of being discriminatory in her approach by insisting on giving the gifts to only BPL (below poverty line) families. He also said that she would face "very serious repercussions" if she did not concur with his government on the Pongal gift hamper scheme.
Bedi, on the other hand, charged Narayanasamy with using public platforms to spread 'false information' and said he was party to a decision taken last year that the scheme would be limited to BPL families only and not applicable to the APL ones.
Bedi in a WhatsApp message said, "The Puducherry Finance Department had examined the proposal for providing the gift to above poverty line (APL) families and it had found that no separate funds were provided for the Pongal gift in the budget for fiscal 2018-2019," as reported by news agency PTI.
The allocation of funds was budgeted only for the operation of free rice scheme which is also highly inadequate, she said. She also said that no additional grant was received from the Centre for a revised estimate of expenditure. For these reasons, the Finance Department here has declined to go ahead with the proposal to provide Pongal gift to APL families.
She said the government also has to save money to protect the interest of poor families coming under the BPL category while maintaining that the Pongal gift would be available only for BPL families.
Bedi also requested the chief minister not to use threatening words towards a constitutional office and "maintain decorum" in his speech and in the notes he was writing to her. Otherwise, she would be "compelled to make those notes public for people to know what and how he was writing".