'She doesn’t follow the Constitution. She doesn’t follow rules'
'Being a former police officer the L-G suspects everybody'
'The L-G is interfering with everything'
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com.
Puducherry Chief Minister Velu Narayanasamy is at loggerheads with Kiran Bedi, lieutenant governor of the Union territory, over several issues since her appointment.
Narayanasamy, a former minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office in the Manmohan Singh government, even accused her of making derogatory statements against him over the alleged medical admission scam (external link) and said he would sue her for defamation.
In an interview with Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar at his office in Puducherry, Narayanasamy spoke about his plans for the state, Rahul Gandhi and his daily friction with the lieutenant governor.
What exactly is the problem with medical college admissions in Puducherry?
As far as medical colleges are concerned there are two parts. The control of medical colleges lies with the Medical Council of India. As the state government we give the essentiality certificate. There is no role for the state government after that.
When the time for admission comes the state forms a central committee that identifies the students by merit according to the guidelines of the Medical Council of India.
Once the central committee has identified the students it sends the list to the constituent colleges. Whether the colleges are following proper guidelines is to be monitored by the Medical Council of India.
The colleges are squeezing money out of students. The merit students that we send are supposed to pay Rs 5.5 lakh as fees but the colleges demand Rs 13 lakh. That is where the dispute arose. That is the main crux of the issue.
We have gone so far as to tell the medical colleges that we will withdraw the essentiality certificate. But we have no power to cancel the licence of the college. That power is only with the council.
There is a false notion in the public’s mind that the state government controls medical colleges. The control is with the Medical Council and every order comes from the central government which we are following.
But unfortunately the honourable lieutenant governor is meddling in everything. She does not know the procedures and the rules but she interferes with everything.
I have written to her explaining that the central committee has been mandated by the Medical Council of India and the Government of India and it follows the instructions issued from there.
If there is any lapse on our parts she can tell us instead of talking about it on social media.
The lieutenant governor was there recently at the counselling centre during the medical college selection. What was she doing there?
She not only visited the centre but also issued orders without any authority. She gave two orders. One was to admit 26 students.
The other order she gave was to give seats to Puducherry students without reference to the central merit list which we have to follow.
She has given the orders in writing and told the officials to violate the guidelines of the Medical Council of India.
The fee for the students has been fixed at Rs 5.5 lakh. She told them to collect Rs 3 lakh only. Who is she to reduce the fees?
Because of this the colleges went to court and the court said “Rs 10 lakh”. This happened because she is interfering with everything.
She is playing a dangerous game. In the CBI case she is telling the officers to “implicate politicians”. You can check the newspapers about it.
There are government colleges and there are private colleges. She doesn’t differentiate between state government quota and management quota. What to do with this kind of administrator?
You have an L-G who goes around the state on a bike in the night. How do you react to it?
(Laughs) I also go around on a motorcycle in the night.
How has the L-G affected the running of the state?
She is an experienced administrator. I was thinking when she comes to the state, the state will be benefited. But, being a police officer she suspects everybody. She is not allowing the development works to happen.
She is also saying that whatever she says to officers in administration has to be done. She doesn’t follow the Constitution. She doesn’t follow rules. She doesn’t bother about anything, she interferes in everything.
I have told her that her domain is the concurrent list and she should not interfere with the state list. Whatever information I send, whatever comments I send, she acts contrary to it.
You have accused her of delaying files and also blocking funds from the Centre. Can you give examples?
I will give you three examples.
We had decided to give 20 kilo free rice to families living below the poverty line. Funds were allocated for the scheme and we sent the file to the honourable L-G. She returned it with queries.
The state ministers decided to waive the cooperative bank loans. She returned it saying waive the other bank loans. That is not our domain but she returned the file.
We had decided that education for Schedule Caste students will be free right from the primary section to professional colleges like medicine and engineering as long as they get admission on merit. She blocked it.
These are all welfare schemes. It is a clear case of not allowing the government to function.
But despite all this, how is your personal equation with the L-G?
I respect her. I attend all functions where she is there. That courtesy I extend to her.
You are known for your loyalty to the Gandhi family. How good a leader is Rahul Gandhi? He seems to be a reluctant politician?
I have worked with him for many years. I was a central minister and a Congress general secretary. He is the vice president of the Congress. He is a fine person. He is not reluctant, he is a principled man.
He wants everything to be perfect. The party rank and file should follow a certain discipline for him.
Narendra Modi is one end and Rahul Gandhi is the other. One is indisciplined and the other is disciplined. Rahul Gandhi is very good and accurate in assessing people. He wants the system to work. He doesn’t want anything and everything to happen.
People are thinking this is being reluctant? This will change, people are already seeing the way this government is going and drifting.
The BJP has come out with a slogan “Congress mukht Bharat”. You are one of the leaders holding up the Congress flag. How long do you think you can hold out against the BJP onslaught?
I am fighting them every day. As far as Puducherry is concerned we are running a very transparent government. In spite of lots of resistance we are doing a lot of development work.
We are developing tourism, we are inviting industry. Under the smart city scheme we got Rs 1850 crores. We have started flight service and we are going to have a container service from Chennai to Puducherry. We are on the progressive path. We are not fighting with anybody. We want development in the state.
We want business to flourish, tourism to expand, industry to come, that is our motto.
Puducherry is a well known tourist centre. What are you doing to make it better?
First is the airport. Secondly we are making our famous promenade bigger. We are going to have heritage tourism, religious tourism and leisure tourism. The Government of India has given us Rs 98 crores to promote these three. It is work in progress.
We are very popular as a tourist destination. On weekends you will not find a vacant room in any hotel here.
Earlier many people would go to Puducherry to buy cars and electronic goods as taxes were lower. Now that you have lost that advantage due to the GST, what are you going to do to boost business and industry?
To compensate that loss we are developing industry and tourism. We have a guarantee from the Government of India that after the introduction of the GST whatever loss occurs to the state will be compensated.
Do you think demonetisation broke the back of industry?
Not only industry, it also broke the back of trade. Two things destroyed the economy. Number one demonetisation, number two GST.
When demonetisation was announced by honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modiji, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said that growth will go down by 2% and that is what happened. From 7.7 % it went down to 5.7%, exactly what he had said.
What has demonetisation achieved? The money that was in 1000 and 500 rupee notes has come back as 2000 rupee notes. 15,000 crores did not come back and to print new notes they spent 21,000 crores. That is a loss.
Ultimately you have not achieved anything but you killed 150 people who died standing in line. Demonetisation is a failure and GST is also becoming a failure day by day.
What are you doing for job creation which is the biggest problem facing the country now?
We are developing tourism infrastructure which is generating jobs. We are encouraging both mid level and heavy industry. We have land and power. We have surplus power.
To encourage industry we are giving capital subsidy, interest subsidy, power subsidy, allowing them to reinvest. After we announced a new industrial policy we have received 150 applications. This is because our policy is very attractive.
Who in the Congress do you think is capable of taking on the Modi-Shah combination?
(Congress President) Sonia Gandhiji is a very capable leader. Rahul is now coming to the forefront.
We have very capable senior leaders like AK Antony, Ghulam Nabhi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Ashok Gehlot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot.
You have spent most of your political life in Delhi. Are you comfortable in Puducherry?
I was swimming in the sea, now I have come to a pond. I have been doing a lot of work as a party office bearer, as a member of Parliament, as a central minister.
Now my duty is to serve my state. I want development in my state. I was not interested to come here. I was told to come here by honourable president of Congress, Madam Sonia Gandhi, and honorable Vice President Rahul Gandhi, to be the chief minister in my state. Whatever guidance is given by the leadership is final for me.
Your mobile number is available to all. How many citizens actually call you? What kind of problems do they tell you?
I am always accessible to people. I take calls at midnight too.
People usually call me to say there is no power in one area. They call me for children’s admission to school and college. They call us when there is an accident. I immediately call the police and also the nearest hospital. I get calls about no water supply. I inform the concerned officials to take immediate action. Even traffic problems, I get calls.
Do you think GST will benefit the country?
The consumer states will benefit, the producing states will lose. We cannot assess in six months.
There is growing intolerance in the country. How have you been able to keep your state free of this menace?
I do not allow any religious fundamentalism to raise its ugly head. We want communal harmony in the state.
If anyone violates our guidelines and tries to harm another religion we crush them there itself.
Is it true that your pet name is “Nari” which means fox and signifies that you are very street-smart?
I have been in Delhi for very long. I know all the leaders. So people call me that as I have moved with many leaders. I take it in the right spirit as a compliment.
You were born in the year of Independence, are you happy with the way the country has progressed?
India has progressed very fast. This is because of the political leadership and the support of the people. We have progressed in all fields.
Unfortunately in the last three years there is stagnation in development, in industry and in various other areas. Communal forces are raising their ugly head supported by the ruling party. People are feeling unsafe. CBI raids on industrial houses and leading businessmen, raiding the politicians which are against the principles of democratic society.