The Supreme Court order of Wednesday, disallowing convicted Members of Legislative Assemblies and Parliament to continue in office, could prove disquieting for as many as 57 Gujarat legislators, including Cabinet Minister Babubhai Bokhiria.
Mr. Bokhiria was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in a Rs. 54 crore illegal limestone mining case on June 15, the first sitting Minister ever to be convicted in Gujarat. He continues to remain Water Resources and Agriculture Minister, Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s claim, “mein khata bhi nahi aur khane deta bhi nahi (I don’t indulge in corruption, nor will I allow anyone to),” notwithstanding.
The Minister has challenged his conviction and so escapes action under the Supreme Court order.
Minister of State Purshottam Solanki has been accused of corruption in the award of fishing contracts in 58 State reservoirs, when he was State Fisheries Minister in the previous Modi government, without going through the tendering process. Though the local police probed the case for nine long months, there was little progress. A special court in Gandhinagar then entrusted the probe to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in May.
Significantly, criminal charges have been framed against him. He also faces criminal charges in Maharashtra. Mr. Solanki was indicted by the Srikrishna Commission probing the 1993 Mumbai riots.
Among the 32 State BJP MLAs facing criminal cases is Amit Shah, former Junior Home Minister. He is an accused in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case. He faces two cases each of murder and criminal conspiracy and one of kidnapping and wrongful confinement. Charges have been framed against him in a court. A close confidante of the Chief Minister, he is now also BJP national general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh.
According to the Gujarat Election Watch, the list of top ten legislators facing serious criminal charges, like murder and rape, has six members from the BJP. The list does not include a former Minister in the Modi Cabinet, Maya Kodnani, who has been convicted to life imprisonment in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre that left 91 people dead.
In all, 57 of the total 182 MLAs (31 per cent) face criminal charges. Percentage-wise, Congress leads with 20 out of 61 legislators, but in terms of numbers BJP is ahead.
Criminal charges have been framed in cases against 10 MLAs — six from the BJP, two from the Congress and one each from Janata Dal-United and Nationalist Congress Party.