Party summons Himachal CM to Delhi amid BJP pressure

The CBI on Tuesday said a probe into the allegations of corruption against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh was under way, even as the Bharatiya Janata Party stepped up pressure for action against the Congress leader.

A day after senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the CBI, citing cases of “corruption”, the youth wing of the party led by Hamirpur MP Anurag Singh Thakur staged a demonstration outside Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s residence here.

The Chief Minister, who arrived here on being summoned by the Congress high command, is expected to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

His wife Prathiba Singh, who has also been accused of corruption, met senior leaders at the AICC here.

Speaking about the charges levelled against him, Mr. Singh said the BJP was “fabricating stories and tampering with facts to suit their convenience”.

“They have been raising similar old issues pertaining to my income tax return and loan taken by my family, which have been clarified time and again and there is nothing material or new in them,” he said.

Mr. Jaitely had accused Mr. Singh of giving extension to the promoters of Venture Energy and Technology Private Limited for completing a hydel power project, despite the State government’s decision to terminate the contract on grounds of default in execution.

The BJP leader alleged that Vakamulla Chandrashekhar, promoter of the company, gave an unsecured loan of Rs. 1.5 crore and Rs. 2.40 crore to Ms. Pratibha Singh and Mr. Singh respectively.

‘Graft money allegedly invested in shares’

The money, it was alleged, was used to invest in shares in the names of his family members and an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) who was with him in the Steel Ministry in a company, which is also promoted by Mr. Chandrashekhar.

Countering the Congress and the Chief Minister’s reaction to the allegations, Mr. Jaitely on Tuesday said: “I have annexed 20 documents totalling 258 pages [with the letter to the Prime Minister]. I have also sent a copy of that letter to the CBI Director so that the agency can investigate the allegations.”

Mr. Jaitely said both Ms. Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Rahul Gandhi should examine this evidence and make a public declaration on why they felt Mr. Singh was innocent.

A senior CBI officer said the agency had already been probing the matter. “The steel company [that is alleged to have paid someone with the initials VBS] was raided by the Income-Tax Department that came across certain suspected irregularities warranting further investigations.

“Based on the findings, we then registered a preliminary inquiry and initiated the probe that is presently under way. If the investigating team comes across prima facie evidence indicating any irregularity, a regular case would be registered,” he said.