Congress objects to lack of State honours at former Governor Kamla Beniwal’s funeral

During her term as Governor of Gujarat, Ms. Beniwal confronted the BJP on many issues, including proposals for compulsory voting

Published - May 16, 2024 10:46 pm IST - JAIPUR

Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted this picture on his X account expressing grief over the demise of former Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal, who passed away at the age of 97, on May 15, 2024.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted this picture on his X account expressing grief over the demise of former Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal, who passed away at the age of 97, on May 15, 2024. | Photo Credit: ANI

The Opposition Congress in Rajasthan on May 16 took exception to the Bharatiya Janata Party government’s failure to give State honours at the funeral of veteran party leader Kamla Beniwal, whose tenure as the Governor of Gujarat from 2009 to 2014 was marked by differences with the State government led by the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The last rites of Ms. Beniwal, who died after a brief illness at the age of 97 years on Wednesday, were performed at Lalkothi cremation ground here on Thursday. Her body, draped in the Congress flag, was earlier kept at her residence to enable her party colleagues and the public at large to pay homage to the departed leader.

Ms. Beniwal, elected an MLA for seven terms from Jaipur district, became Rajasthan’s first woman Minister in 1954 at the age of 27 years and held various portfolios, including Home, Health, Education, and Agriculture in the subsequent years. She was appointed the Deputy Chief Minister in the first Ashok Gehlot government in 2003.

The veteran Congress leader was appointed the Governor of Tripura in October 2009 and transferred a month later to Gujarat, where she served for more than four years. Before her transfer to Mizoram in July 2014, she entered into confrontation with the BJP government in Gujarat on several issues, such as the Bills proposing compulsory voting, regularisation of illegal constructions, and 50% reservation in local self-government bodies.

The Raj Bhavan under Ms. Beniwal had the most serious conflict with the State government in 2011 when it appointed a retired judge, R.A. Mehta, as the Lokayukta against Mr. Modi’s desire. The BJP government challenged the appointment in the Gujarat High Court and later in the Supreme Court, without success. Mr. Mehta later declined to assume the office.

Mr. Modi shot off a letter to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding that the Lokayukta’s appointment be annulled and Ms. Beniwal be recalled over the controversial appointment bypassing the State government. Mr. Modi said the Governor had “wrongly appropriated” the function of the duly elected government by acting in collusion with the Opposition Congress, which amounted to subversion of the Constitution.

Pradesh Congress Committee president Govind Singh Dotasra expressed surprise here on Thursday that the late freedom fighter and former Governor was not accorded the State honours at her funeral. “Was the late freedom fighter insulted at the behest of New Delhi? Or was it a human error? Was it justified? The government needs to answer,” Mr. Dotasra said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

Chief Minister Bhajan Lal Sharma was among those who visited Ms. Beniwal’s residence to pay obeisance to the departed leader. Assembly Speaker Vasudev Devnani, former Minister and Congress leader B.D. Kalla and several other political leaders attended her cremation alongside her family members and relatives.

Ms. Beniwal’s son Alok Beniwal, who was previously in Congress and was elected as independent MLA from Jaipur district’s Shahpura constituency in 2018, had joined the BJP on March 10 this year, ahead of the Lok Sabha election.

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