Accused by the Opposition of sacking Mizoram governor Kamla Beniwal out of political vendetta, the government on Thursday gave two reasons for its action — the first being that she had cost the Gujarat government Rs 1,216 crore in central funds by sitting on a crucial bill during her time in the state’s Raj Bhavan.
The second reason, it stated, was her “unethical involvement” in the affairs of a cooperative society in Jaipur — cited in a June 27 report from the Rajasthan government.
Two months shy of completing her term, the 87-year-old Beniwal was sacked on Wednesday, just a month after she was transferred to Mizoram from Gujarat.
The Opposition, including the Congress and NCP, termed her removal an act of “political vendetta” stemming from her running feud with Modi when he was chief minister of the western state.
But the government claimed there were serious allegations against Beniwal and the act of removing her was in accordance with the Constitution.
Read: Govt justifies sacking of Kamla Beniwal, opposition calls it political vendetta
It said it had cited these two reasons before President Pranab Mukherjee while making a case for her removal. In addition, the home ministry recalled strictures passed by the Supreme Court against Beniwal for alleged misuse of office in 1997, when she was urban development minister in Rajasthan.
It argued that it was expected that a person reprimanded by the SC would be more circumspect and not dabble in issues related to allotment of land.
Government sources told HT Beniwal’s removal was sought on the basis of a July 31 letter from Gujarat chief secretary Varesh Sinha to the home ministry, accusing her of causing financial losses to the state due to her delayed assent to an amendment in the Lokayukta Act.
They added that the President had taken a final decision after seeking the attorney general’s opinion.
According to the state’s complaint, the Gujarat Lokayukta Act of 1986 was first amended in 2011 but Beniwal returned it without her assent.
The state legislature again passed an amendment to this act in 2013. This time, she sent it to the Centre for consideration “after much delay”.
The state told the Centre that to get central grants for panchayati raj institutions and urban local bodies, the state must notify a legislation to bring elected representatives of such institutions under the lokayukta. But because of Beniwal’s delayed actions, the state had lost grants to the tune of Rs 1,216 crore.
The home ministry also said Beniwal’s “unethical involvement” in the affairs of the Kisan Samuhik Krishi Cooperative Society Limited in Jaipur had invited criticism and lowered the dignity of the high office she held. It said Beniwal had been a member of the society, even participating in its meeting, while she was Gujarat governor.
Senior BJP leaders Nitin Gadkari and Kirit Somaiya had complained to the President against Beniwal on this issue as far back as 2012. After the NDA came to power this May, Somaiya had reiterated his complaint to Mukherjee, who had then forwarded it to the home ministry on July 4.
HT Analysis: It will be difficult for Beniwal to legally challenge her removal