Like several key public appointments, Delhi’s new Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena’s relations with the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have roots in Gujarat.
It was his sterling performance at the JK Cement’s plant in Rajasthan, from where he started his career in 1984, that catapulted him as the chairman of the greenfield Dholera port project, a joint venture between J K Group and Adani Group, in 2012.
Dholera port was among the pet projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. He was subsequently appointed as the Chairman of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) in 2015. Under his leadership, the KVIC registered a mind-boggling growth of 248% and 40 lakh new direct and indirect jobs were created in just 7 years.
Born in Kanpur, the 63-year-old Saxena, who succeeds former bureaucrat Anil Baijal, is the first corporate man ever selected for such a gubernatorial post. He graduated from Kanpur University in 1981 and also holds a pilot’s licence.
Saxena came close to the BJP through his Ahmedabad-based NGO National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), which took up cudgels on behalf of the Gujarat Government against the Narmada Bachao Andolan of human rights activist Medha Patkar, who fought a sustained two-decade battle against the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Project.
Highly placed BJP sources said Saxena first came in contact with the then BJP Government of Keshubhai Patel in the mid-90s through cabinet minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama.
The NCCL subsequently filed a petition in the Supreme Court alleging that almost 50% of the huge foreign funds that Medha Patkar’s NBA used to get were being diverted to the Naxalite-infested Bastar.
Before the petition was moved, a report was first sent about this to the then Union Home Minister LK Advani. But the report somehow got leaked to Medha Patkar. Subsequently, she filed a defamation case against Saxena’s NCCL. During a slugfest of sorts, he had also filed such a suit against her. These cases are continuing in various courts.
The last standoff between Saxena and BJP on one side and Medha Patkar on the other was in 2002 when she was allegedly brutally attacked near the Sabarmati Ashram.
She had filed a police complaint against BJP leaders and Saxena at the Sabarmati Police Station that she was physically assaulted and even banged against the wall. The police had lodged offences against the then Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad leader Amit Thaker, BJP municipal councillor Amit Shah (not present Union Home Minister) and VK Saxena.
She had alleged that when she went to participate in a meeting at the Gandhi Ashram, the accused demanded to know her identity and purpose for coming to the ashram. They then levelled allegations against her and physically assaulted her, including kicking her and hitting her against a wall, she stated in her complaint.
She also accused the offenders of having illegally detained and threatened her. The case is still pending and counter-complaints were also lodged against the human rights activist.
Saxena, however, was hugely successful in turning around the laggard Khadi and Villages Industries Commission. He explored the untapped streams of khadi and village industry sectors and first time implemented many innovative employment-generation schemes like ‘Honey Mission’, ‘Kumhaar Sashaktikaran Yojana’ and ‘Leather Artisans’ Empowerment Scheme’ that won accolades from all quarters.
It was during Saxena’s tenure, that KVIC, for the first time, clocked a historic turnover of Rs 1.15 lakh crore in 2021-22, the highest by KVIC and any FMCG company in India so far.
From 2016 to 2022, Saxena was nominated every year as a Member of the ‘Empowered Committee’ for evaluation of “Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration”.
In May 2008, Saxena won International Felicitation by the United Nations Decade of Sustainable Development (UNDEAD) in association with UNESCO, UNICEF and UNDP for “Outstanding Contribution to Environment Protection and Water Security” in Gujarat.
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