Amid attacks, Virbhadra promises clean governance

By Vishal Gulati, Shimla, Dec 25 : Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who has just completed a year in office, has promised a corruption-free state as well as speedy and uniform development. But the BJP is not impressed.

The chief minister's assertion comes at a time when he has been accused by the BJP of raising a personal loan of Rs.3.90 crore from an individual whose company was executing a hydropower project in the state.

He and his family are also said to have bought shares from the firm.

Virbhadra Singh is unfazed.

"The BJP is levelling charges against me as it fears legal action for wrongdoings done during its regime," Virbhadra Singh, who took over the reins of the state for the sixth time on this day last year, told IANS.

He listed his government's achievements, saying that in the past one year, it has increased the social security pension, started skill allowance scheme for unemployed youths and free bus travel for all government school students, subsidised ration for over 36 lakh people, and restarted 149 denotified schools, mostly in rural areas.

The 78-year-old chief minister blamed his predecessor Prem Kumar Dhumal and his sons for starting a malicious campaign against him since the vigilance and anti-corruption bureau booked both sons - Anurag Thakur and Arun - for allegedly grabbing land near Dharamsala by forging revenue records.

On taking a loan from Vakamulla Chandersekhar of New Delhi, he said: "As an individual, I have every right to raise a loan."

Giving details of his family's shares in Tarini Infrastructure Ltd, he said the firm was a public-listed company.

He said his government last month terminated the implementation agreement signed June 16, 2007, with Tarini Infrastructure as it had failed to deposit the outstanding amount of over Rs.58 lakh with the government.

The issue hogged the limelight in the just-concluded winter session of the assembly.

The BJP throughout the session sought to place the government in the dock for its failure to carry out issues related to the common man and misusing the state investigating agency against political opponents, say political observers.

"A common feeling is prevailing that the government is wasting much time in conducting inquiries against the opponents than focusing on development," said an observer.

Meanwhile, Dhumal termed the regime a "government of 'badla (revenge)' and 'badli (transfers of government employees)" on political grounds.

"It is using the vigilance bureau as a tool to settle personal scores," Dhumal told IANS, noting Virbhadra Singh had not mentioned the loans and purchase of shares in his affidavit filed during the nominations to the November 2012 assembly polls.

"As Virbhadra Singh has shown his wife and son as his dependents, he was supposed to reflect their assets in the affidavit submitted during his nomination papers. But there was no mention of loans or shares in the affidavit," he said.

He said Pratibha Singh had mentioned the loans in the affidavit filed by her while contesting the by-election to the Mandi parliamentary seat, but there was no mention of shares.

The Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP), a political outfit headed by BJP rebels, which is supporting the government, also criticised its performance.

"Both the Congress and the BJP are two sides of a same coin as far as corruption is concerned and the people are now looking for a political alternative," said its leader Khushi Ram Balnatah.

"The government has failed to fight corruption despite making tall promises in the elections," he added.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at

--IANS (Posted on 25-12-2013)

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