Former Himachal CM P. K. Dhumal says Virbhadra hiding facts from his own party
Former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal on Sunday said Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who is in the eye of the storm for allegations of bribery against him, is hiding facts from his own party high command, if the statement of the All-India Congress Committee on its website is to be believed.
Mr. Dhumal, at a press conference on Sunday, gave exhaustive details about the project allotted to Vakamulla Chandrashekhar, the head of Tarini Group’s Venture Energy, by the Congress-led State government. Mr. Chandrashekhar gave crores of rupees as interest-free loans to the Chief Minister, he said.
Mr. Dhumal said the 17-MW Sai Kothi hydel project was a part of the more than 400 MW hydel projects allotted to various companies by the BJP-led government on June 14, 2002. Mr. Chandrashekhar’s project was cancelled on December 12 of the same year as he was unable to get clearance from the Central government.
The Congress, which came to power in March 2003, set up a high-level committee to review the project and agreed that it should be cancelled. The committee terminated the Memorandum of Understanding with the company, he stated.
But, surprisingly, the project was brought back for reconsideration three times in the Cabinet by someone more powerful than the Power Minister Vidya Stokes, said Mr. Dhumal, hinting at Mr. Singh’s role in the reversal of decision.
Reallocation of project
The controversial project was reallocated to Venture Energy in February 2005, despite the High Court’s orders, he said. The matter went to the Supreme Court, which asked the government to reconsider its decision. Instead, the Virbhadra Singh Government allotted the project again to the same company and signed an implementation agreement with it in 2007.
The BJP Government, Mr. Dhumal said, had also given extensions to all other projects, in a transparent policy with a delay penalty fee of Rs. 10,000 per MW per month. Venture Energy had paid a partial fine and the project was to be automatically cancelled on April 1, 2013. But again, unexpectedly, Mr. Singh gave a special extension of 10 months to Venture Energy, while all other such projects were cancelled due to delay in construction.
As soon as the matter came into the public domain and was highlighted by the media, Mr. Singh was forced to cancel the project again in November 2013, claimed the BJP leader. Revelations about Mr. Singh’s loans also came to light during this period. Mr. Singh’s wife, Pratibha Singh, who fought the Mandi (Lok Sabha) by-election, showed a loan of Rs. 3.90 crore in her affidavit to the Election Commission. The BJP, intrigued by this, demanded that the loans totalling Rs. 7.70 crore be probed by the CBI and Income Tax Department, Mr. Dhumal said.