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The Gujarat High Court verdict upholding the sanction granted by Governor Kamla Beniwal to prosecute Minister of State for Fisheries Purshottam Solanki in an alleged fishing contracts scam is one more victory for the governor in her tussle with Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Justifying her decision, Beniwal had said that she felt Modi's ministry was biased in not allowing Solanki's prosecution.
Beniwal and the government have not been on the same page on several issues and their differences peaked last year when the government challenged the governor's suo moto appointment of Justice (retd) R A Mehta as the Lokayukta, and lost the case. The Modi government is more sensitive to allegations of corruption than to some other controversies that have plagued it in connection with the 2002 riots. Solanki, who allegedly caused a loss of Rs 400 crore to the state, has accused Beniwal of acting under pressure from the Centre.
He holds considerable influence over the powerful Koli vote bank, which could prove crucial in an election year. Modi, on the other hand, already has a long list of supporters facing serious criminal cases, including Maya Kodnani and Amit Shah.
Modi enjoyed good relations with all five governors before Beniwal. The Gujarat BJP has termed Beniwal's assertiveness as political and blamed it on the Congress, her party before she became governor. The state government had sought to stress this, among others, during the Lokayukta tussle in the high court by pointing out that Beniwal had consulted the Attorney General of India, the highest law officer of the Central government.
Although there may be some substance in the Gujarat BJP's allegations, Beniwal's assertiveness has been seen as favouring the people of a state who were deprived of a Lokayukta amid suspicion of large-scale corruption in land allotments.As an activist from Ahmedabad said, even if Beniwal acted under political influence in the Lokayukta and Solanki matters, he would not mind it as long as it was in public interest.