The Opposition is mounting pressure on Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh to resign in the wake of media reports bringing out fresh revelations of his alleged bribery scandals.
There were two allegations that sparked an outrage: the first one was about the detection of a fresh company — Maple Destinations and Dream Build Private Limited – reportedly owned by his children, being supported by a businessman, Vakamulla Chandrashekhar, with interest-free loans worth Rs.2 crore; and the second being the recent disclosure of apples worth Rs.6.56 crore that belonged to Mr. Singh being transported on scooters and oil tankers as told by an apple merchant during investigation.
The State unit of the BJP, which decided to run a State-wide campaign ‘Virbhadra hatao, Pradesh Bachao’ [remove Virbhadra, and save Himachal] from January 4 to 10 to expose the Chief Minister’s alleged corrupt deals, launched protests at all district headquarters.
Mr. Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh and daughter Aprajita Kumari, owned 95 per cent and 5 per cent shares respectively of Maple. The company was started in 2011 and its balance sheets for 2011-12 and 2012-13 show that Mr. Chandrasekhar and his company, Tarini Sugar and Distilleries Limited, gave Rs. 49.99 lakh and Rs.1.5 crore respectively as loans to Maple, alleged the protesters.
BJP State secretary Randhir Sharma said the protesters submitted a memorandum to the Governor through the Deputy Commissioners and highlighted the corruption alleged in its ‘charge sheet' given to the Governor on December 25, 2013.
Senior-most BJP leader in the hill State Shanta Kumar, who is always praised by Mr. Singh (even Saturday at a rally in Amb in Una) for his suave and moderate nature, called the alleged corruption charges against the Chief Minister as warranting a probe.
Mr Singh on Saturday hit back at his detractors saying that they were unleashing a “slander” campaign against him, and asked them to move court to prove the charges.
Addressing a rally at Amb in Una district, Mr. Singh accused former Chief Minister P.K. Dhumal and his sons of “vitiating the political atmosphere and creating bitterness”, and said that they had brought the political debate to the lowest ebb by continuing to level false charges against him.
“In a democratic polity, governments come and go, and allegations are levelled against political opponents during elections but for the first time the BJP continues to rely on the mudslinging to malign me,” Mr. Singh said, adding that he was only concerned about the people of the state and was not bothered about “what the BJP alleges”.
Accusing Mr. Dhumal of crossing all limits, Mr. Singh said, “Senior BJP leader Shanta Kumar was Chief Minister for two terms, but never in the past the change in government caused such bitterness and the leaders maintained dignity.”