By Vishal Gulati, Shimla, Aug 9 IANS | 12 months ago

This is one skier that could go either way for the ruling Congress and the main opposition BJP in Himachal Pradesh.


The saffron brigade has taken on its arch rival on the issue of land allotment to the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), currently facing a cheating and misappropriation case, during the previous BJP regime.

BJP MP Anurag Thakur, who is the HPCA administrator, has dared Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh (VBS) to face a parallel probe into bribery accusations against him when he was union steel minister from 2009 to 2011.

"The HPCA got the land allotted for building a residential complex for players (three kilometres from HPCA's cricket stadium in Dharamsala) by following all norms. The (land) records are with the government. They can get it probed. We have no problem," Thakur told reporters in Shimla earlier this week.

But, at the same time, he said: "Let there will be simultaneous time-bound probes, one against the HPCA and another against Virbhadra Singh," Thakur said.

The BJP, during last Novmeber's assembly polls, had attacked Virbhadra Singh on the Ispat Industries payoff scam. It alleged that a diary entry of Rs.2.28 crore was marked against the initials "VBS" during the period when Virbhadra Singh was steel minister.

The Congress countered it by saying Thakur was just trying to divert attention from HPCA'S murky affairs.

"No undue favour was given to any steel company by Virbhadra Singh during his stint as union minister," state ministers Mukesh Agnihotri and Sudhir Sharma said in a joint statement.

"The reference made by Thakur regarding the alleged diary seized by the Income Tax Department proved nothing. An inquiry conducted by the department found no irregularity," they said.

They said irregularities have however been found in the HPCA's land allotment. "The HPCA was gifted 'shamlat' or common land of a village by then chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. A case has been registered against the HPCA and investigations are now on."

Clarifying the land allotment, Thakur said this was effected from a government pool to the HPCA for commercial purposes on a lease of Rs.27 lakh per annum.

"We have registered as a company on no-profit, no-loss basis under section 25 of the Companies Act for promoting cricket activities. This was done with the permission of the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India)," he said.

Sources however said the HPCA has further sub-leased the residential complex to a company for commercial use.

A case of cheating and misappropriation was registered against the HPCA Aug 1.

On July 26, Indian Administrative Service officers Deepak Sanan and R.S. Gupta were charge-sheeted by the government for allegedly allowing a change in the land use of village community land for building the residential complex.

The state vigilance and anti-corruption bureau, which is probing the issue, is yet to include any names in its first information report.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

(Posted on 09-08-2013)