Accusing BJP of “misleading” Parliament over Lokayukta’s appointment in Gujarat, Congress leaders from the State on Tuesday met President Pratibha Patil and claimed that a “smear campaign” to discredit the Governor has been launched by Narendra Modi’s party.
A party delegation which included PCC chief Arjun Modwadia, CLP leader Shaktisinh Gohil and former Union Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela met Ms. Patil in a bid to counter BJP’s offensive after its leaders led by L K Advani petitioned the President on Friday seeking recall of Governor Kamla Beniwal for bypassing Chief Minister Modi while appointing the Lokayukta.
“Ms. Sushama Swaraj has misled Parliament on the issue by saying Governor sat on for three years on a recommendation by the state Government to appoint Lokayukta. I have been a part of the process. All these are nothing but lies,” Mr. Gohil alleged after meeting the President.
”....Narendra Modi has become desperate. Since the maximum funding of BJP comes from Gujarat.... Hence the entire BJP high command is on its toes to save the Chief Minister,” he claimed.
In a four page memorandum submitted to Ms. Patil by the delegation, which was led by AICC general secretary in-charge for the state Mohan Prakash, the state Congress leadership alleged that the BJP government in Gujarat was opposing the appointment of R A Mehata as Lokayukta as it is “scared” that as in Karnartaka, the Lokayukta in Gujarat will also expose the “massive wrong doings, irregularities and corrupt practices” in Gujarat.
Accusing Mr. Modi of scuttling the appointment of Lokayukta for last seven-and-a-half years, Mr. Gohil said, “I challenge Mr. Modi to come for a debate before camera and contradict if anything I said is wrong.”
Referring to former Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa and the arrest of former BJP minister Janardhan Reddy by CBI, Gujarat PCC chief Modwadia said, “Modirappa of Gujarat has got scared that the Lokayukta will probe the huge scams” of the State.
In the memorandum submitted to Ms. Patil, Mr. Gohil said that the Governor of Gujarat has done a “commendable” job by appointing a Lokayukta in the State and that BJP has launched a “smear campaign to discredit the Governor” and was demanding her recall despite the fact that the Lokayukta appointment matter is sub-judice.
The petition refuted BJP’s claims that Governor violated the spirit of federalism by not acting as per the aid and advice of the council of minsters while appointing Lokayukta.
It noted that Sundarsinh Bhandari as Governor during BJP’s rule in Gujarat in 2000 had, through an order, made it clear to the then Leader of Opposition Amarsinh Chaudhary that the name suggested by the Chief Justice was final and no change could be made in this.
Mr. Bhandari was a senior BJP leader before being appointed Governor of Gujarat by the NDA government.
“In the past Justice D H Shukla (1988-93), Justice I C Bhatt (1993-98) and Justice S M Soni (1998-2003) were appointed by the Governor with his own signature and warrant.
No cabinet resolution was given to the Governor by way of suggestion or assistance in this regard,” the petition contended.
Mr. Gohil also recalled that BJP leader Makrand Desai had during an all-party meeting before the introduction of Lokayukta Bill in State Assembly had stated that Governor only should be the authority to appoint Lokayukta.
Mr. Gohil also recalled that another senior BJP leader Suresh Mehta while participating in a debate on the bill in the Assembly had “vehemently asserted that the power to appoint Lokayukta should remain only with Governor”.
“Their (BJP leaders Makrand Desai and Suresh Mehta’s) contention was that the Lokayukta is mandated to examine complaints of corruption and wrongdoings against the Chief Minister, his council of ministers and other political appointees so the Chief Minister or the Government should not play any role in selection or appointment of Lokayukta.
“They stated that in case the Chief Minister or the Government is made a party in the appointment, it could lead to questions about the credibility of the Lokayukta,” Mr. Gohil said.
He said that even during the previous BJP government, Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel had followed the same procedure and the person suggested by the then Chief Justice was appointed by the Governor.
He also questioned why Modi government came out with an ordinance seeking amendment in the existing Lokayukta Act to empower the government to determine Lokayukta’s appointment if the Act already required the Governor to seek the aid and advice of the council of ministers in this matter.
Alleging that Mr. Modi “does not want a neutral and unbiased” Lokayukta, he said that the Gujarat Chief Minister even opposed Justice S D Dave’s appointment as Lokayukta as suggested by the Chief Justice.
“The BJP’s campaign against Gujarat Lokayukta clearly exposes the Opposition party’s double standards. It wants a strong Lokpal at the Centre and on other hand, it seeks a ’sarkari’ and convenient Lokayukta in Gujarat... the Chief Minister wants to buy time so that his corruption cases are not investigated,” Mr. Gohil alleged.