Cong slams Modi, BJP on issue of fighting corruption

New Delhi: Congress today hit out at Narendra Modi government and BJP alleging that they were "reluctant and double-faced" on the issue of fighting corruption after the apex court dismissed the state's plea challenging Justice (retd) R A Mehta's appointment as Gujarat's Lokayukta.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said that the media should also "look at with a fine-tooth comb and with a microscope" as to why the Chief Minister of Gujarat decided to challenge the appointment of the Lokayukta.

"This shows the double face of BJP. They want Lokpal at the Centre but oppose Lokpal in their party-ruled Gujarat. BJP's doublespeak on corruption is for all to see," Congress spokesperson Rahid Alvi said.

Taking the argument further, Tewari said that the Supreme Court order raises a very fundamental question as to "why the Government of Gujarat is opposing the appointment of the Lokayukta? What is the reason? Why has the Government of Gujarat been so diffident and reluctant in having an oversight mechanism."

Alvi said that he hoped that the Lokayukta in Gujarat begins functioning as early as possible so that "truth in corruption cases may come out before the nation".

In a setback to the Gujarat government, the Supreme Court today upheld the appointment of Justice Mehta as Gujarat's Lokayukta and dismissed its plea challenging Governor Kamla Beniwal's decision to appoint him without consulting the state government.

While noting that the Governor is bound to act under advice of Council of Ministers, the apex court held that the appointment is right as it was done in consultation with the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice.

Tewari said that it is a bit of an "oxymoron" that BJP to which the Gujarat Chief Minister belongs, has never shied away from "crying hoarse" on issues of alleged discretion and corruption across the country but was "shy of even appointing a Lokayukta when its comes to its own backyard".

Replying to questions, Tewari said that BJP's "double standard" is implicit.

"Otherwise why would a state government (of a party), which has been crying hoarse over the appointment of Lokpal at the Centre and has prized itself as a party with a difference, would go all the way right up to the Supreme Court to challenge the appointment of Lokayukta in its own state.

"Does it not really reflect the double standards in its entirety?" Tewari said.

Insisting that "facts speak for themselves", the Congress leader said that there was an order of the state High Court earlier, which had upheld the appointment of the Lokayukta by the Governor of Gujarat to be valid, which was subequently challenged in the Supreme Court.

"Now the Supreme Court has upheld the appointment. The fact is that if the very information is correct that there has not been a Lokayukta in the state of Gujarat for the past several years, it begs an obvious question as to why has the Gujarat government and Gujarat leaders been so diffident and so reluctant in having an oversight mechanism," Tewari said.

Senior party leader from the state Shankarsinh Vaghela alleged that the BJP government was trying to hide from the Lokayukta for the last so many years as "it has indulged in so much corruption".

"It is only he who has stolen something is the one who feels the need to hide. If you are honest, then whoever might be the Lokayukta, it won't bother you," Vaghela said.

Activist Teesta Setalvad accused Modi of showing "utter arrogance and contempt for the law".

She said the Supreme Court has upheld "the deepest principle of constitutional governance as opposed to electoral arrogance in the appointment of Lokayukta in Gujarat".

Setalvad said the decision of the court has re-imposed the faith of the common man in constitutional democracy, not just in "electoral mobocracy".