The protracted tussle between the Puducherry government and Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi took an ugly turn on Sunday when Chief Minister V Narayanasamy walked out of a function organised for Republic Day.
Saying that he had not been informed earlier, Mr Narayanasamy refused to honour two recipients of the Padma awards from the union territory with shawls at the event in Raj Nivas, the Lieutenant Governor's residence.
Calling it a breach of procedure, the Congress leader has demanded an apology from Kiran Bedi.
The former BJP leader, meanwhile, accused the Chief Minister of disrespecting the Padma awardees - author Manoj Das and terracotta artist VK Munusamy Krishnapakthar - and said Mr Narayanasamy shouted and argued with a government official.
"We invited both the Awardees so that Puducherrians get an immediate opportunity to greet these national heroes. Both the Padma Awardees were gracious to attend even at such short notice. Once present in the audience our Comptroller Raj Nivas Asha Gupta considered it respectful to recognise the presence of the Padma Awardees by requesting the Chief Minister to present a shawl to them," Ms Bedi said in a statement on Monday.
"She thought it would be befitting the occasion that the HCM does the honours. The Honourable Chief Minister instead of welcoming this offer, in the presence of Mr Munisamy, the terracotta Padma Awardee shouted back and argued back, saying "how can it be done without his prior intimation and prior approval?" There was a great deal of embarrassment. This was right in the presence of select invitees and all the senior officers of the administration," she added, demanding that the Chief Minister express his regrets to the Padma awardees.
The Puducherry government and Ms Bedi have been at loggerheads since the latter assumed office in 2016. Mr Narayanasamy and the Congress have accused her of delaying clearance to welfare schemes, bypassing the elected government and interfering in the administration.
Last year, the Madras High Court restricted the Lieutenant Governor's authority to act independently of the elected government in the Union Territory, saying that in matters of finance, administration and service, Ms Bedi could only act on the advice of the council of ministers.