Amid opposition charge of political vendetta in the sacking of Mizoram Governor Kamla Beniwal, the government on Thursday said the decision was prompted by "serious allegations" against her and insisted there was no politics behind it.
Beniwal, who had a running battle with Narendra Modi when he was Gujarat chief minister, was sacked on Wednesday night as the governor of Mizoram just two months before her tenure comes to an end.
Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad said the move was in accordance with Constitutional principles. "...the decision to remove Kamla Beniwal, the governor is in accordance with constitutional principles and conventions with the due approval of the President of India," Prasad told reporters outside Parliament.
He said that if the government has to say anything more, it will be done on the floor of Parliament.
Responding to the Congress allegation of political vendetta behind the move, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu insisted that there is "no politics" behind the decision.
"Action against Mizoram governor is no violation against the Supreme Court's earlier judgment. Action has been taken within rules and within the Constitution. There is no politics behind it," he said.
Pressed further, the minister said, "There are serious allegations. The government has taken note of them and taken action."
He said the President has decided over it after applying his mind thoroughly on it and such decisions are "privilege" of the government.
Reacting to the move, the Congress general secretary and Communication Department Chairman Ajay Maken tweeted, "If Governor Kamla Beniwal was to be removed, why was she transferred to Mizoram only a few days back? #Vendetta Politics."
Even the Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar said Beniwal’s removal was a “violation” of a Supreme Court judgment. “This is a clear cut violation of Supreme Court judgment and it is a (case of) political vendetta,” Pawar said.
Congress leader Manish Tewari dubbed it as “political vendetta” and said the action did not go down well with the Supreme Court judgment. “Any definition in any dictionary which possibly proscribes political vendetta then this is a classic case. You have an elderly lady who was Governor of Gujarat. It is not a hidden secret that the then Governor Gujarat did not see eye to eye on with the then chief minister of Gujarat on number of issues. You transfer her to Mizoram and summarily sack her which flies in the face of the Supreme Court judgment... a constitutional bench delivered at the instance of BJP MPs knocking the doors of the Supreme Court when governors were transferred in 2004 or replaced in 2004,” Tewari said.
He said the verdict clearly said the governor could not be transferred due to “extraneous, capricious or political reasons” and cannot be treated in a manner which is inconsistent with the dignity of the Constitution. “Governors are constitutional authority and they cannot be trampled upon and trifled with in this manner. This is a flagrant violation of not only the essence of SC judgment, but also the constitutional scheme,” Tewari said.
Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha charged that the Modi government is unleashing vicious political vendetta on those who questioned him.
Another Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeted, “This government busy with sacking/transferring people instead of tackling inflation & other imp issues. Political vendetta 1st, country later.”
However, Naidu accused the Congress of doing politics over the issue. "The Congress is trying to derive political mileage out of it," the minister said.
The sacking order brought to an end the gubernatorial tenure of the 87-year-old Congress leader from Rajasthan who battled with the Modi government over the appointment of Lokayukta and some legislations during her tenure in Gujarat.
During her confrontation with Modi, Beniwal appointed retired Justice R A Mehta as Lokayukta in Gujarat against which the state went in appeal to the high court and later the Supreme Court which upheld it last year. However, Justice Mehta did not take up the post and Modi's government named a new nominee.
Beniwal is the second governor to be sacked after the removal of Puducherry Lt Governor Virendra Kataria. Soon after the Modi government assumed office, some governors were forced to resign while a few a resisted and are still in office.
Interestingly, another Congress leader Margaret Alva appointed by the United Progressive Alliance government was allowed to conclude her tenure in Rajasthan.
Image: Prime Minister Modi with Governor Kamla Beniwal