A gutsy governor

It's anything but easy to take on a chief minister like Narendra Modi. After all, even though many see him as the man who presided over the most vicious, well-orchestrated pogrom of Muslims in India's post-Independence history, there are others, too, who hail him as a messiah of neoliberal development. But Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal seems to have perfected the art of using her office to set things right. Be it the long-pending matter of the appointment of a Lokayukta for Gujarat, which resulted in a confrontation with Modi, or the recent questioning over funds for his three-day 'Sadbhavana' fast, she has consistently refused to succumb to any pressure.

Born in January 1927 to a family of freedom fighters in village Gaurir in Jhunjhunu district in the erstwhile princely state of Rajputana, she grew up to take active part in the struggle against the British Raj. In fact, she was in the frontline of a people's struggle against the feudal jagirdari system in Jaipur State, and even faced imprisonment for her involvement. Much later, she received a tamrapatra from Indira Gandhi for her contribution to the freedom movement. In 1954, she became the first woman to take oath as a minister in Rajasthan.

She has had a long and active association with the cooperative movement in Rajasthan. In 1995, she was awarded by the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO) for being the "best co-operator" of the country.

Her stints as agriculture and irrigation minister in the Rajasthan government are remembered for the way she took up the cause of farmers and set up several major and minor irrigation projects across the parched and arid landscape of the state. She also served as the deputy chief minister of Rajasthan before her appointment as the governor of Tripura, becoming the first woman to hold the post of governor in any state in the Northeast. 

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: OCTOBER 2011