It was shameful for any party to have such a leader projected as the chief ministerial candidate in Himachal Pradesh, BJP leader Arun Jaitley told journalists in Shimla on Tuesday.
The Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday demanded a SIT probe into the revised Income Tax returns filed by the former Union Minister, Virbhadra Singh, deposits of more than Rs. 5 crore into his bank accounts in Shimla and payment of crores to one “VBS” in the Steel Ministry by the Mumbai-based steel company, Ispat industries.
It was shameful for any party to have such a leader projected as the chief ministerial candidate in Himachal Pradesh. He was earlier thrown out of the Union Cabinet on charges of corruption, BJP leader Arun Jaitley told journalists here. “Had the Congress president known the recent misdeeds of Mr. Singh, she would not have shared the stage with him yesterday [on Monday] in her first election rally in Mandi and talked of corruption by the opposition parties.” Mr. Jaitley said the man who repeatedly claimed the so-called “royal lineage” should have been demonstrably honest in public life. The BJP leader gave a detailed account of how the money and the timings mentioned in the account books of the business group matched with the opening of an account in the Punjab National Bank in Shimla and depositing of huge sums of cash in this very branch by his business partner and LIC agent Anand Chauhan.
The agent bought four hefty single premium policies for Mr. Singh, his wife and two children by investing about Rs. 6 crore.
But at the centre of the controversy are the revised I-T returns of Mr. Singh, showing a manifold increase in agricultural income for three years that has brought into focus orchards which the veteran Congress leader owns.
The affidavit filed by him while contesting the 2009 parliamentary elections from Mandi showed that he owned land at three places — in Damrali 7.67 hectares, Saharan 6.81 hectares and about 1 hectare at Kanai.
Before entering the fray as the chief ministerial candidate from the Shimla (rural) seat on October 17, Mr. Singh, in his election affidavit, declared that he owns 14.52 hectares of farm land.
Mr. Jaitley asked how an agriculture income of Rs. 51.05 lakh for 2008, 2009 and 2009 shown in the I-T returns was retrospectively revised twelve-fold to Rs. 6.15 crore in the revised return filed in March 2012 for the same three years.
The BJP leader alleged that besides a corruption case there was forgery as Mr. Singh had entered into two agreements for management of his orchards for the same period.
“Obviously one has to be ante-dated,” he claimed.
In one of the orchard management contracts entered into with Bishambar Das on June 17, 2008, the annual amount payable was Rs. 10.50 lakh and it was reflected in the I-T return filed by Mr. Singh as Rs. 11.05 lakh under the agriculture income for the year.
However, in the revised I-T return filed in March 2012, the agriculture income for 2008 was scaled up to Rs. 2.21 crore, a 20-fold increase.
The money had been shown to have been received from Mr. Chauhan, with whom Mr. Singh was said to have entered into an agreement on June 15, 2008 for the management of his orchards.
Mr. Jaitley asked: “How does Virbhadra explain Anand Chauhan receiving Rs. 5 crore cash deposited in his bank account and paying for Virbhadra and his family’s LIC policies?”
Terming the agreement with Mr. Chauhan for the management of Virbhadra’s orchards a case of forgery, the senior BJP leader said not only the congressman was caught red-handed in a corruption case but also had committed the crime of forgery which need to be investigated by a special investigation team.
“For an annual apple orchard income of plus Rs. 2 crore, one should have a production of about 25,000 apple boxes,” say the growers here.
Photo copies of The Hindu carrying a report on Mr. Singh, “For Virbhadra, money grows on trees,” were circulated to journalists by Mr. Jaitley’s aides.