Shimla, Jan 5: BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal Sunday questioned the Congress’s silence on the payoff allegations against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, saying it was time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acts. The chief minister dismissed the charges as “politically motivated”.
“The prime minister should act now least it’s too late,” Dhumal, a two-time chief minister of Himachal, told reporters here.
“I think the prime minister might be applying his mind now (on the charges),” he said to queries if Manmohan Singh has sidestepped the allegations levelled by his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley against Virbhadra Singh.
Virbhadra Singh retorted that the BJP can’t cow him down by maligning his image with false allegations, and were free to move Lokayukta against him.
Dhumal, asking the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to expedite inquiry into allegations against Virbhadra Singh, claimed that despite most ministers opposed to re-allocating the project to Venture Energy and Technology Pvt. Ltd, Virbhadra Singh went ahead with the decision in 2005.
Accusing the Congress of trying to give the impression that the BJP had allotted the project, he said the project was allocated to Venture in June 2002 during his tenure, but six months later, a cancellation notice was given to the company as it was planning to bring foreign equity in the project.
Noting that the Congress came to power in the state in March 2003, he said it had decided to cancel the allotment in November 2003 and the company unsuccessfully contested the decision in the state high court.
The company then moved the Supreme Court, which asked the state to reconsider its allotment.
“But then the Congress government re-allotted the project to the same company and signed project implementation agreement in June 2007 with the company,” he said.
He attacked Virbhadra Singh’s justification that the decision to re-allocate the project was on the basis of the apex court ruling.
“But the fact is that the court had never asked the government to re-allot the project. It only ruled on reconsideration of allotment to the company. There is a lot of difference between reconsideration and re-allotment,” he contended, alleging Virbhadra Singh was misleading his party leaders by presenting wrong facts.
Dhumal said the project then got automatic extensions and its last extension was to expire March 31, 2013.
“It had to be terminated April 1 as the company had defaulted the payments. This government delayed the matter until Sep 4 and then gave special extension to the project. Later, when the issue snowballed into a controversy, it was shown to be cancelled Nov 12, 2013. There are many questions that need to be answered in this regard,” he said.
Alleging that there was an “open and shut case of corruption” against Virbhadra Singh over payments from a power company’s promoter, Jaitley Dec 30 demanded a probe and action from Manmohan Singh and the Congress.
The leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha alleged Virbhadra Singh accepted money to the tune of Rs.1.5 crore and Rs.2.4 crore, through cheques in his and his wife Pratibha Singh’s name, from Venture Energy and Technology Pvt. Ltd.
Dismissing the allegations levelled against him by Dhumal and Jaitley, the chief minister told reporters in these “are false, frivolous and fabricated”.
“The accusations were preposterous and politically motivated. If they have any evidence, they are free to knock at the door of Lokayukta,” Virbhadra Singh said.
He alleged the Dhumals have started a malicious campaign against him since the state vigilance bureau has booked Dhumal’s sons Anurag Thakur and Arun Dhumal for allegedly grabbing land near Dharamsala by forging revenue records.
“The Dhumal government went out of the way to give precious government land worth Rs.200 crore at five places to HPCA (headed by Thakur). His government indulged in illegal phone tapping of their political opponents, their own ministers, officers and media persons, which is a serious scam,” the chief minister said in a statement.