The constitutional position in administering Union Territories is different from that of the States and gives the Lt-Governor power to act independently of his or her Council of Ministers which Governors of States do not have.
As long as the party in power at the Centre was in power in the Union Territory, this differentiation in power between Governor and Lt-Governor did not pose any serious problem in governing Union Territories.
From the time the BJP government of Narendra Modi posted Kiran Bedi as Lt-Governor of the Union Territory of Puducherry, ruled by the Congress, there has been a running battle between the Administrator and Chief Minister V Narayanasamy.
Bedi had stalled more than 35 welfare schemes of the Narayanasamy government and the Congress, holding the lone Lok Sabha seat from the state, was finding it difficult to face the electorate as polling to the 17th Lok Sabha approached. Things came to such a pass that on 13 February the Chief Minister with his Cabinet colleagues, party MLAs and supporters began a sit-in protest in front of Raj Nivas blocking its entry and exit gates.
After they had remained ensconced at Raj Nivas for six days, the Lt-Governor condescended to call the Chief Minister for talks and the power struggle ended in a draw. While Article 239 (2) of the Constitution says the Lt-Governor shall exercise his functions “independently of his Council of Ministers,” the Supreme Court in July last declared that the Lt-Governor has to act on all matters except in specially excluded areas, on the advice of the Council of Ministers.
Notwithstanding Article 239 of the Constitution, Section 44 of the Union Territories Act, 1963, mandates that the Lt-Governor should act on the ‘aid and advice’ of the Council of Ministers. Any difference of opinion between the two can be referred to the President. Both Bedi and Narayanasamy claim they are working to make Puducherry a clean and developed Union Territory.
One of Bedi’s early actions was to withdraw all financial powers bestowed on the Chief Minister. There is no denying the fact that she has been striving hard to make Puducherry a pro-BJP Union Territory. When Bedi, the country’s first woman IPS officer, was sworn in as Lt-Governor of Puducherry in May 2016, the BJP had no representation in the Union Territory’s Legislature. In the 2016 election to the Puducherry Assembly all BJP candidates forfeited their security deposits.
Bedi nominated A Saminathan, president of the Puducherry unit of the BJP, KG Shanker, its treasurer, and Selvaganapathy, a BJP sympathiser, to the Assembly amidst protests by the Chief Minister.
Even though the Speaker of the Assembly refused to accept the three BJP nominees, the Union Home Ministry intervened on behalf of Bedi. With her continued support, the BJP has grown strong enough to contest for the first time the Union Territory’s solitary Lok Sabha seat. This is no mean achievement.