Kamla Beniwal
Kamla Beniwal

Gandhinagar :  Consistently needled by Governor Kamala Beniwal, who was the only hurdle in his steamrolling ways during his tenure as chief minister of Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi used his new found authority to seek political revenge in his own classical style.

The sack order served on her on Wednesday is just one example that he brooks no opposition and gets even at the first available opportunity.

The way the entire exercise was carried out shows that Prime Minister Modi wanted to make a spectacle of her sacking. With just a few months left for her tenure to end, she was first transferred to Mizoram and an impression was given that the prime minister, who had been grace personified at the beginning of his tenure, wanted the 87-year-old lady out of Gujarat and had therefore moved her to the distant north-east where she could retire in splendid isolation.

Incidentally, Beniwal had commenced her gubernatorial career in the north-east (Tripura) in 2009 and ended it in Mizoram. The entire process of her transfer and sacking is seen by political observers as a political move designed to set an example for others to take note of.

Beniwal was also not found wanting in her resolve to stand up to Modi, as she had done all these years, except that the scales now were tilted heavily in Mod’s favour after the 2014 general elections. The Union home secretary’s message asking UPA appointed governors to quit had elicited little response from the feisty lady.

The official reason cited for the decision to send her packing was that she had misused the governor’s office during her tenure in Gujarat to make unauthorized air travels to various places, including to her home state Rajasthan, at the expense of the state exchequer. Raj Bhavan records were cited to make the point that of the 63 times the state aircraft was used to travel out of Gujarat between 2011 and 2014, 51 trips were to Jaipur from where she hails.

It is interesting to note that during this entire period, it was Modi who was the chief minister of the state and while he had launched a virtual crusade against her, he never brought this unauthorized use to public notice. After all, the ‘misuse’ of the state plane could not have gone unnoticed to a chief minister known to keep sharp tabs on the doings of his own ministers and bureaucrats.

The then chief minister enjoyed taking jibes at both his ministers and bureaucrats at meetings about their off duty as well as on duty indiscretions.

For all practical purposes, the two shared an extremely uneasy relationship during Modi’s tenure as chief minister. Whenever Modi  sought to use his brute majority in the Gujarat Vidfhan Sabha to do what he wanted, he invariably ran up against the stonewall called Beniwal.

The appointment of the Lokayukta was just one example in an extended bout of sparring between the two. Modi ran the bulk of his over decade long tenure as chief minister without a Lokayukta, stalling it at every point and turn despite the fact that the appointment body was headed by the chief justice of the High Court. When Beniwal finally appointed retired justice RA Mehta, the Modi government promptly knocked at the doors of the judiciary and kept losing the case right up to the Supreme Court .Even the appeal before the apex court failed and so did a further attempt.

Modi’s attempt to give the chief minister primacy in the appointment of the Lokayukta was also stonewalled by the Governor and finally rejected by her in 2013.The appointment of vice-chancellors again had the two at loggerheads since the Governor was the chancellor in the case of most of them. In some of the new educational institutions of excellence that the Modi government created, the Governor’s role was virtually stamped out.

The BJP, in turn, accused her of sitting over legislations passed by the state assembly, including the one which provided for 50% reservation for women in local bodies. She was also instrumental in registering a corruption case against then fisheries minister Purushottam Solanki. However the bulk of her appointments were challenged in court and stood the test of judicial scrutiny, including the one against Solanki.

Her sacking is not only meant to give a signal to those UPA appointee governors who have still not heeded the nudge to quit but also to others, both within and without, that the velvet gloves are off and the iron fist of the man in command is showing and he has no qualms about using it.

Hell hath no fury than Modi scorned

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