Beniwal goes to Mizoram

Print edition : August 08, 2014

Governor Kamla Beniwal being greeted by Narendra Modi at the swearing-in ceremony of Anandiben Patel (centre) as the new Chief Minister of Gujarat, in Gandhinagar on May 22. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

EVER since Kamla Beniwal became the Governor of Gujarat in 2007 she has been a thorn in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s side. In what seems to be a case of getting rid of a hindrance as soon as he could, Modi put Beniwal on the list of the many United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-appointed Governors who were asked to resign by the new National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre.

Kamla Beniwal, 87, has been transferred to Mizoram, in a region she is familiar with, having been the Governor of Tripura before she came to Gujarat. However, the posting is only until her term ends in November. Kamla Beniwal shared an extremely uneasy relationship with Modi through the seven years she was in Gujarat. Her biggest clash was in August 2011 when she appointed Justice R.A. Mehta as the Lokayukta under Section 3 of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986, which gives the Governor the right to appoint a Lokayukta without consulting the government, particularly when there has been an extreme delay in making the appointment. Gujarat had not had a Lokayukta since 2003.

Modi wrote to the Prime Minister saying it was a breach of “federal principles” and asked that the Governor be recalled. The Bharatiya Janata Party said the Lokayukta should be decided by elected representatives and not by the Governor.

The Gujarat government also filed a case in the Supreme Court challenging the appointment. But the court upheld Mehta’s appointment. Mehta, however, declined to take charge saying that the attitude of the State government would not allow him to carry out his duties.

Two years later, in September 2013, Modi and Beniwal locked horns again when the latter returned the contentious Lokayukta Aayog Bill, 2013, that the State Assembly had passed. Under the Lokayukta Act, 1986, the power of selection of the Lokayukta is with the Governor and the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court. Modi was pushing a new Bill that proposed to give all powers of appointment to a selection committee headed by the Chief Minister. Beniwal at the time said: “The very constitution of the selection committee suggests that the Leader of the Opposition and judge would be in a minority and their voice would have hardly any significance because their objections could be easily overruled.”

The BJP government in Gujarat also accused Beniwal of sitting over several Bills passed by the State Assembly, one of which provided for 50 per cent reservation for women in local bodies. Beniwal traces her roots to Gaurir village, Jhunjhunu district, Rajasthan. After her postgraduation she joined politics and soon became Rajasthan’s first woman Minister at the age of 27. A seasoned politician, she was a Minister in Congress governments in Rajasthan from 1954 and held several crucial portfolios, including Home, Education and Agriculture.

Beniwal faced a rough period in 2013 when the BJP named her in a land grab scam in Jaipur. They said that as per the records of the Kisan Samuhik Krishi Sahakari Samiti Limited (KSKSSL), a cooperative body in Jaipur, Beniwal was a farm labourer who put in 16 hours of work every day for the past 41,000 days. They alleged that the State government had allotted 209 plots to members of the samiti, who could use it for real estate development.

The Congress dismissed the allegations and said the BJP was maligning Beniwal because she had ruffled Modi’s feathers. Political commentators say Beniwal has as blemish-free a reputation as a clean politician can have.

Anupama Katakam

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