Jairam Ramesh, the Rural Development Minister, who is no stranger to controversial remarks, drew an analogy with the disgraced self-styled godman Asaram Bapu who is facing charges of sexual assault when he was asked about Narendra Modi mocking Rahul Gandhi on the issue of Lokpal Bill at a rally in in Uttarakhand yesterday.
Narendra Modi had questioned why Congress, which is pushing the Lokpal Bill, was not implementing Lokayukta Act brought in by the previous BJP government headed by B C Khanduri in Uttarakhand.
Jairam Ramesh said that the Gujarat Chief Minister, who did not appoint a Lokayukta for 10 years in his state, has no right to speak on the issue of the anti-graft legislation.
A guy who didn't appoint a Lokayukta for 10 years is hardly the person to speak about Lokayukta. For 10 years he didn't appoint a Lokayukta and he is giving 'updesh' (sermon' on Lokayukta. This is like Asaram talking about virginity," Ramesh told reporters.
Self-styled godman Asaram Bapu, who allegedly sexually assaulted a minor, is in judicial custody in Jodhpur jail since his arrest in September.
Jairam Ramesh termed Uttarakhand's Lokayukta Act a "joke" and said that "there was some problem" with the legislation. He, however, did not elaborate.
Drafted at a time when Anna Hazare's agitation for a Lokpal Bill was at its peak, Uttarakhand Lokayukta Bill was passed unanimously by the state Assembly on November 1, 2011 after Khanduri took over the reins in the state for a second time in September, 2011.
Though given presidential ascent after a two-year wait in September this year, the Act is yet to be implemented in Uttarakhand as Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna wants to bring it into force only after certain amendments.
Uttarakhand Lokayukta Act brings under its ambit the chief minister, ministers, MLAs and bureaucrats among others.
Congress spokesperson Bhakta Charan Das also hit out at Modi noting that Gujarat government was at one time opposing the appointment of Lokayukta and alleged it had spent "an amount of around Rs 45 crore" to stop Justice RA Mehta's appointment as Lokayukta in 2009.
Das said that it is for the people of the nation to respond to the fact that one who opposed the appointment of a Lokayukta in his state is making adverse comments on other states.
"Gujarat Chief Minister has commented that why Lokayukta has not been constituted in Uttarakhand. We want to say that Lokayukta will have to be constituted in Uttarakhand and the process is on, but why in Gujarat after 2003 no Lokayukta was constituted," he said.
When pointed out that a Lokayukta has been appointed in Gujarat recently, he said that it was way back in 1984 that the Congress government had appointed the Lokayukta there and till 2003, the Lokayukta had worked.
"But from 2003 to 2006 there was no movement in this regard. In 2009 when Justice RA Mehta was appointed Lokayukta, he had to face a number of difficulties and the Gujarat government had to spend an amount of around Rs 45 crore to stop him from taking over," he said.