BJP's probable prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi suffered a setback of sorts when his irrigation and water resources minister Babubhai Bokharia was on Saturday sentenced to three years imprisonment for his involvement in the Rs 54 crore illegal limestone mining scam in Porbandar.
With hardly any option but to quit, Bokharia is all set to become the third minister of the Modi cabinet to go out on criminal charges.
Dr Mayaben Kodnani,minister of state for child welfare was the first when she was arrested in connection with the 2002 communal carnage at Naroda Patia in Ahmedabad and subsequently sentenced to life term.
The minister of state for Home, Amit Shah , now BJP incharge for UP, followed next, after he was arrested in connection with the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. He is out on bail as the case continues.
Sentenced along with Bokhiriya for three years in the case is former Congress MP Bharat Odedara who is his relative , alleged gangster Bhima Dula and his son and Chairman of Porbandar Marketting Yard Lakshman Odedara .
Bhima Dula, is already facing a murder charge and is in jail. While Bokharia was arrested earlier in 2007, he was later released on bail. In last assembly, election, he defeated Gujarat Pradesh Congress President Arjun Modvadia from Porbandar Constituency and found place in the Modi cabinet as minister for irrigation and water resources.
Bokharia , however, continued to plead innocence and said that he would challenge the verdict. On the matter of his resignation as mandated under the People's representation statute, he said he would go by his party’s directions.
The genesis of the case, which may cost the minister heavy, lies in the unearthing of a large scale illegal limestone mining racket with government royalty evasion to the tune of Rs 100 crores in 2006-07 by the district administration. However following the unearthing of the racket, and the political nexus, the then district collector, Porbandar HN Chhibber, who had launched the drive against illegal mining was the first to be transferred. He suffered at the hands of the Modi dispensation when he was suspended on the day he was due to retire. In 2007, Bokhiria was arrested and spent five months in jail before being bailed out conditionally.
Bokharia is not the lone minister under a cloud. The present minister of state for labour and empowerment, Purshottam Solanki is facing deep trouble after being hauled up by the high court in a Rs 400 crore scam involving fishing contracts for the reservoirs in the state during his previous term as fisheries minister. Solanki sits placidly in the council of ministers, through the face saver of legal tangles.
Meanwhile, the opposition Congress has demanded Bokharia’s immediate resignation failing which it has threatened an agitation.
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