Kamla Beniwal, Congress veteran whose governorship was marked by clashes with government under Narendra Modi, dies at 97

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Congress veteran Kamla Beniwal, who was deputy chief minister of and governor of three states, died in on Wednesday. She was 97 years old.

Born in 1927 in Gaurir village in Jhunjhunu district to a Jat family, Beniwal participated in the freedom struggle in her youth. She completed her bachelor’s degree in economics, political science and history from Maharaja College, Jaipur and her master’s degree in history from Banasthali Vidyapeeth in Tonk district of Rajasthan.

In 1952, she became a member of the first Rajasthan Assembly after being elected in a bypoll from the Amber ‘A’ Assembly seat on a Congress ticket. She was later elected as an MP for seven terms from Jaipur district. At the age of 27, she became the first woman minister of Rajasthan and held various portfolios during her tenures in the Rajasthan Assembly, the last being that of Deputy CM in the first government of Ashok Gehlot in 2003.

Subsequently, she served as governor of , and . In Gujarat, his tenure was marked by run-ins with the state government led by the then chief minister, Narendra Modi. In a 2011 letter to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Modi had demanded that she be recalled immediately, saying she had “bypassed” his government to appoint the Lokayukta.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Modi condoled his death, posting on X: “Saddened by the passing away of Dr. Kamla Beniwal Ji. She had a long political career in Rajasthan, where she served the people diligently. I had innumerable interactions with her when she was the Governor of Gujarat and I was the Chief Minister. Condolences to his family and friends. Om Shanti.

Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar said, “A wise administrator and seasoned leader, she embodies women’s empowerment. Its simplicity combined with its firmness has earned it many admirers. Having known Dr Kamla Beniwal ji for over five decades, this is a personal loss for me. May the Almighty give his family and friends the strength to bear this irreparable loss. Oh, Shanty! »

Former chief minister Gehlot said Beniwal had a multi-faceted personality and did exemplary work in all fields, not just politics.

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“During my first term as chief minister, she was my main colleague in the cabinet. During this time, I learned a lot from her. She was an effective administrator, a powerful speaker and a strong leader. His commitment and loyalty to the Congress ideology is an example,” he said. “As Governor of Gujarat, she further enhanced the dignity of her office by protecting constitutional values. »

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Gehlot said Beniwal had “immense affection” for him. “I used to often visit his residence at Malviya Nagar, Jaipur to inquire about his well-being and seek his blessings and guidance.”

She married Ramchandra Beniwal in 1949 and the couple had one son and four daughters. Her son, former MP Alok Beniwal, called it an “irreparable loss” for him and his family, saying the dignity she “preserved in public life and the high values ​​she upheld will continue to be the same.” ‘inspire “.

Alok Beniwal, a BJP leader, was earlier a Congressman and elected as an independent MLA from Shahpura in Jaipur in 2018. He said his last rites would take place on Thursday morning.

Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel and Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat also mourned Beniwal’s death.

During Beniwal’s tenure as governor of Gujarat, between November 2009 and July 2014, she clashed with the state government on a number of issues. These included bills proposing compulsory voting, regularization of illegal constructions by levying an impact tax and 50% reservation in local self-government bodies.

The sharpest confrontation took place in August 2011 when Beniwal’s office appointed Justice (retd) RA Mehta as Lokayukta of Gujarat against the wishes of CM Modi. The state government unsuccessfully challenged the appointment, first in the Gujarat High Court and then in the Supreme Court. Mehta ultimately refused to take on the role, saying the controversy had “denigrated” the position and “the appointment had lost all grace and dignity”.

The Raj Bhavan under Beniwal saw another point of friction with the Modi-led Gujarat government in 2012 when it granted sanction to prosecute the then fisheries minister Purshottam Solanki in a alleged Rs 400 crore fishing contract scam.

In July 2014 – after the BJP-led NDA government came to power at the Center – Beniwal was moved to the post of Mizoram governor for the remainder of her term.

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