Manmohan Singh is surrounded by corrupt people, says Sushma Swaraj

BJP vice-president Shanta Kumar on Saturday admitted that the malady of corruption had not spared even his party and it needed to introspect on the issue. “We need to set our house in order and have to stop the spreading tentacles of corruption,” said Mr. Kumar.

However, corruption had severely gripped the Congress. “Elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat would be a referendum on corruption.”

On corruption charges against his party president, Mr. Kumar said: “Nitin Gadkari has already offered his business dealings to be probed. Let the Union government order any inquiry by some independent agency. But the government should conduct a comprehensive inquiry against all those who indulged in Coalgate, the Commonwealth Games scam and Robert Vadra’s property deals.”

The former Himachal Chief Minister said the Congress had an ulterior motive in raking up the charges against Mr. Gadkari. “It’s to divert the attention of the public from Robert Vadra’s corruption in land deals.”

He said the “BJP believes in an impartial probe against anyone, even party leaders, in case of any wrongdoing and wants all those found guilty to be punished.” Mr. Kumar supported the ouster of the then BJP chief Bangaru Laxman from the party when the latter was caught taking bribe on camera.

The senior leader has stayed away from BJP meetings in Himachal for more than three years. He charged the Prem Kumar Dhumal-led BJP government with not acting tough against corruption and with promoting nepotism. But, on the advice of the central leadership he has now joined the poll campaign, say party sources. Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj launched a frontal attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and said “he is heading the most corrupt and insensitive” government of the country.

Addressing election rallies at Palampur and Pachhad, the BJP leader accused Dr. Singh of shifting the blame for scams on Ministers. “The Prime Minister is surrounded by corrupt people but as head of the Cabinet he cannot escape the responsibility and is accountable to the people,” she said.

Alleging that the decision on FDI in retail was taken in haste, Ms. Swaraj said the Prime minister and the UPA government had betrayed the people by backing out of the solemn assurance given in Parliament by the then Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, that all stakeholders and Chief Ministers would be consulted and the decision would be put on hold until after consensus was evolved.

However, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the UPA government’s move to bring FDI in retail would greatly benefit apple farmers of Himachal.

He blamed Mr. Dhumal and his son Anurag Thakur for all the ills faced by the State.

On Sunday, Dr. Manmohan Singh and senior BJP leader L.K. Advani will hold rallies in Una and Amb.