Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy on Monday refuted the charge levelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that his government was not conducting the local body elections in the Union Territory and said the polls were delayed owing to the interference of Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi.
Addressing Congress workers near the Gandhi Statue on the occasion of the Congress party’s 136th foundation day, the Chief Minister said the Prime Minister, without knowing the facts, had criticised his government.
After the term of the last local body ended in 2011, the principal Opposition party All India N.R. Congress (AINRC) was in power till 2016. The AINRC extended support to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance after the Parliament elections in 2014. The Prime Minister should have pressed for the local body elections during the time, the Chief Minister said.
Mr. Narayanasamy further said after his government came to power, the cabinet recommended the name of an officer as State Election Commissioner and forwarded the file to Ms. Bedi who returned it stating that the power to appoint SEC vested with her.
When the matter was raised in the Assembly, the house unanimously passed a resolution appointing former IAS officer Balakrishnan as SEC. The Lt.Governor did not accept the proposal and called for applications from individuals for selection of SEC, the Chief Minister said.
(It might be recalled that the Madras High Court had dismissed a writ petition challenging the Lt. Governor’s decision to reject the nominee of the cabinet for SEC post)
Mr. Narayanasamy said the Lt. Governor, despite opposition from the government, appointed a former Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer as SEC through a selection process. Recently, a person with experience in conducting elections and who came second in the selection process, approached the court challenging the appointment of an IFS officer as SEC, he said.
“As per Election Commission rules, an IFS officer cannot be appointed as SEC. It is because of the interference of Lt.Governor that the election process got delayed. The Prime Minister is speaking without knowing the facts,” he said.
Endorsing former Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s statement that democracy was lacking in the country, the Chief Minister said Jammu and Kashmir was divided and made as Union Territories without any consultation. The political party leaders were put under house arrest, he said.
“It can happen in Puducherry. But we will not allow the rights of the Union Territory to be taken away by anyone,” he said.