Kiran Bedi has been removed as Lieutenant-Governor of Puducherry, Rashtrapati Bhavan said in a statement released late Tuesday night.
The statement from President Ram Nath Kovind’s office said that Tamilisai Soundararajan, the Governor of Telangana, had been directed to discharge the functions of the Lieutenant-Governor of Puducherry, in addition to her own duties, until a new appointment is made.
“The President has directed that Dr Kiran Bedi shall cease to hold the office of the Lieutenant-Governor of Puducherry and has appointed Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan, Governor of Telangana, to discharge the functions of the Lieutenant-Governor of Puducherry, in addition to her own duties, with effect from the date she assumes charge of her office, until regular arrangements for the office of Lieutenant-Governor of Puducherry are made,” the Rashtrapati Bhavan statement said.
Ms Bedi’s removal comes with just weeks to go for Assembly polls and is being widely seen as a political move on the part of the BJP – a tactic to negate the Congress’ campaign that focused on allegations that Ms Bedi was scuttling Puducherry’s development at the behest of the centre.
Sources have said Ms Bedi’s removal was also one of the conditions placed by A Namassivayam, one of the two ex-Congress leaders who last month resigned as MLAs and joined the BJP.
Four Congress leaders have resigned from the Puducherry Assembly so far; a fifth, N Dhanavelou, was disqualified for alleged anti-party activities last year.
Two of the MLAs — A Namassivayam and E.Theeppainjan — resigned on January 25. Both joined the BJP. On Monday, Malladi Krishna Rao quit and today, John Kumar resigned as MLA.
With these resignations the Congress has lost its thin majority in the Puducherry Assembly.
Ms Bedi, who was appointed to the Puducherry post in May 2016, has been involved in a long-running feud with Chief Minister V Narayanasamy, who has cited her “undemocratic style of functioning”.
“This is a not a new demand. Even in 2019 December, we sat in dharna in front of the Raj Bhavan…for the recall of Dr Kiran Bedi,” Mr Narayanaswamy told NDTV.
He cited examples such her alleged blocking of the government’s Pongal gift to the people, wherein, instead of the Rs 1,000 planned, only Rs 200 was allowed to be disbursed.
Elections are due by May in Puducherry and neighbouring Tamil Nadu, besides Kerala, West Bengal and Assam. The BJP does not expect much from Tamil Nadu and Kerala at this point, but the party reckons a better chance in Puducherry, with the Congress considerably weakened.
The Congress had won 15 assembly seats in the 2016 polls, including that of the Speaker. It took power with the support of the DMK and an Independent. The opposition AIADMK has four MLAs, the AINRC has seven and there are three nominated members of the BJP.