The ongoing spat between Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi and Social Welfare Minister M. Kandasamy has taken a turn for the worse with the Puducherry Dalit Koottamaippu, an umbrella organisation of 53 outfits, deciding to hold a fast on October 11 to protest against the “ill-treatment” meted out to the Minister by the Lt. Governor.
The organisation has decided to organise a hunger strike in front of Head Post Office to condemn the “anti- Dalit” stand of the Lt Governor, said the former legislator and president of Puducherry Dalit Koottamippu, Neela Gangadharan, at a press meet here on Monday.
Mr. Gangadharan said it was at the behest of Dalit outfits that the government decided to construct high-mast lamps in colonies. The Lt. Governor had found fault in spending money from the Adi Dravidar Development Fund for the people.
The organisation charged the Lt Governor with blocking several programmes for the welfare of Scheduled Castes people, including free education to Dalit students, financial assistance for construction of houses, and waiver of loans taken by farmers from cooperative societies.
“She has insulted the Minister by suggesting he bring his son as an interpreter for discussion at the Raj Nivas,” he said.
This was tantamount to mocking the Minister for his lack of knowledge in English, he added.
Ms. Bedi and Mr. Kandasamy have been at loggerheads on several issues such as award of dredging contracts but matters came to a head the other day with the Minister formally expressing his wish to the Chief Minister to stage a protest in New Delhi to protest the alleged interference of the Lt Governor in governance which was disrupting implementation of welfare measures for the underprivileged sections.
Ms. Bedi responded by inviting Mr Kandasamy to Raj Nivas for discussing issues, and even suggesting that before proceeding to New Delhi he would perhaps like to have a look at the charges of corruption in some welfare schemes.
What was, however, deemed offensive was the conclusion of Ms. Bedi’s letter: “You may like to bring your son Mr. Vignesh for interpretation, if needed.”
Ms. Bedi’s remark was instantly interpreted by political circles here as an oblique reference to the Minister’s lack of proficiency in English.
However, shortly after drawing criticism for the tone of the letter, Lt. Governor clarified that the Minister had always sought permission to allow him to be accompanied by his son to interpret for him.
“I always respected his request.
“I repeat my invitation to the Minister to come and share his concerns with me so that he can see the material which I have forwarded to the investigating agencies. It will help him defend himself,” she said in a WhatsApp message.
The Minister on his part dared the Lt Governor to forward the material to investigating agencies.
“Why should she show me all the evidences she has gathered? That is not the normal practice. If you have the evidence you should proceed with it,” Mr. Kandasamy said.
The Minister said he was able to communicate without the help of an interpreter even when he met national leaders.
Mr. Kandasamy on Sunday escalated the issue by writing to President Ram Nath Kovind complaining about Ms. Bedi’s allegedly obstructionist style of functioning.
Responding to the development, Ms. Bedi on Monday said she was only trying to protect the interest of people, especially weaker sections of society.
“The fact of the matter, based on evidence, deviations have been found which amount to financial irregularities committed by some department officials under the Minister’s charge,” she said.