Pondy CM, Bedi cross swords over Pongal gift scheme

Puducherry: In a fresh turf war, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy Tuesday said he has returned a file on Pongal gift hamper scheme to Lt Governor Kiran Bedi, protesting her ‘arbitrary’ decision to restrict it’s coverage, a charge rejected by her.

He also said the Lt Governor had “no authority” to take a decision contrary to the proposal of the government to extend the benefits of the scheme to all ration card holders.

“She is only misusing her authority and acting to the detriment of the people by taking a decision contrary to the proposal of elected government,” Narayanasamy, who has been at loggerheads with Bedi on various administrative matters, told reporters here.

Joining issue, Bedi charged Narayanasamy with using public platforms to spread ‘false information’ and said he was party to a decision taken last year that the scheme would be limited to BPL families only and not applicable to the APL (above poverty line) families.

On 28 December, while addressing Congress workers at the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) office here, Narayanasamy had said though the government decided to distribute Pongal gift hampers for all ration card holders, Bedi returned the file insisting that only BPL families should be covered.

The chief minister Tuesday said his cabinet did not accept the ‘modification’ made by Bedi to the government’s proposal. “When she sent the file to the government with specific contention that only BPL families should be handed the Pongal gifts and those coming under above poverty line (APL) and AAY (Antyodaya Anna Yojana) categories would not be eligible for it, I had returned the file to her registering our protest against her arbitrary decision,” he said.

The gift hamper comprises essential items like rice, jaggery and cashew nuts required for making ‘Pongal‘ (a sweet delicacy) offered to Sun God on the occasion of harvest festival, which falls on 15 January.

Narayanasamy said the Congress government wanted the benefits of the scheme to reach all categories as done in neighbouring Tamilnadu. Bedi’s contention that implementation of the scheme would mean heavy expenditure for the government was “misleading and is an utter lie,” he alleged.

Noting that any difference of opinion between the Lt Governor and the government on implementation of welfare schemes should be referred to the Council of Ministers, Narayanasamy said the former had no authority to adopt a totally “improper and arbitrary approach.”

Charging Bedi with hiding facts to justify her stand, he said she “does not deserve” to be the incumbent of the gubernatorial post. Puducherry would witness a “big change” sooner than later and all “current sufferings and embarrassment” of the people would come to an end, he claimed without elaborating.

Reacting to the Chief Minister’s comments, Bedi in a message to the media later said the gift hamper was limited to the BPL and red card holders as per the notification published in the state Gazette in January last year.

“…the Chief Minister is part of the agreed decision – that the scheme is limited to BPL families and red colour card holders only and that the benefit of the scheme is not applicable to the APL families,” she said.

Bedi also said the expenditure for this scheme would be met from out of the funds earmarked for free rice scheme. When full allocation was not available for the rice scheme, the Chief Minister would blame the office of Lt Governor for not providing the fund, she added.

“The Chief Minister is regrettably using his public platforms to spread false information all the time. He is violating his own gazette schemes when he demands Pongal gift for the above poverty line categories also,” she said.