The face-off between Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal and Chief Minister Narendra Modi continues with Ms. Beniwal taking a tough stand asking the State government to give details of expenses met from the State exchequer in aid of his recent “sadbhavana mission” fast.
Ms. Beniwal, whose “recall” was demanded by the Chief Minister at a Bharatiya Janata Party workers' rally on Sunday, on Monday forwarded to the government a memorandum, submitted to her by the Mahagujarat Janta Party (MJP), demanding to know the expenditure made towards the fast.
The letter was signed by Principal Secretary to the Governor Arvind Joshi, and sent to Additional Chief Secretary of the General Administration Department, under the head: “Related to expenses from public exchequer and financial irregularities for BJP Chief Minister Narendrabhai Modi's fast.”
The letter stated: “The office-bearers of the Mahagujarat Janta Party had met the Governor on September 19 and submitted a memorandum in the above reference, so we are forwarding the letter for further action. The above information is needed to be placed before the Governor, so it is requested to send concerned details at the earliest.”
While Mr. Joshi was not available for comments, MJP president Gordhan Jhadaphia, who himself began a 51-hour “samvedana mission” fast to demonstrate the party's “sympathy” for the people who were “reeling” under the Modi regime, alleged that the government had indulged in serious financial irregularities by spending money for the fast without the prior sanction of the Assembly. He also urged the Governor to order a thorough probe into the alleged misappropriation of funds to the tune of over Rs.1 lakh crore by the Modi administration.
Mr. Jhadaphia, who was a Minister of State for Home in the Modi Cabinet earlier but parted company with the BJP and formed his own party just before the 2007 Assembly election , said the party had demanded that the Governor get details of the expenses made for the “publicity fast.” Estimating that Mr. Modi's “five-star” fast in a centrally air-conditioned hall cost the State exchequer at least Rs.55 crore, Mr. Jhadaphia said it was “an open loot” and the government was answerable for it.
Ms. Beniwal, who has been locked in a row with the government over the appointment of Justice R.A Mehta — a retired judge of the High Court — as the Lokayukta without consulting the Chief Minister, dashed off the letter seeking details of expenses and procedures followed for the sanction of funds for Mr. Modi's fast.
Mr. Modi on Sunday criticised the Governor for allegedly allowing the Raj Bhavan to be converted into a “Congress Bhavan.” However, he refrained from addressing the appointment of the Lokayukta as the matter was sub-judice — the government has filed a petition in the High Court challenging Justice Mehta's appointment.
Contrary to the expectations, the Opposition members remained subdued as the Assembly began its brief two-day monsoon session here on Monday.
The Congress members, who attended the Housing wearing Gandhi caps as a symbol of “simplicity” against Mr. Modi's “five-star fast,” sought to periodically refer to the sadbhavana mission, but no demand was made on the disclosure by the government on the expenditure made for it. “The Assembly rules do not permit us to raise the issue on the floor of the House immediately,” Leader of the Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil said.
Speaker Ganpat Vasava had to adjourn the House for some time as Congress members continued to raise slogans and threw papers demanding time for discussing certain pressing issues such as the outbreak of leptospirosis in the tribal areas, which so far has exacted a toll of 151 lives; injecting HIV-infected blood to some thalassemia children patients in the Junagadh civil hospital; and alleged death of a witness in a case in police custody.
The issue was settled during the recess, after the concerned Ministers agreed to take the matter up with the members representing the areas where the incidents had taken place.