Graft charges against Virbhadra unsubstantiated: Ministers

Shimla, Jan 1 (IANS) The Virbhadra Singh-led cabinet in Himachal Pradesh Wednesday described as “unsubstantiated” the allegations levelled by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley against its chief minister.

“The (ex-chief minister Prem Kumar) Dhumal family is feeling the heat of the on-going investigations (into scams) and fearing legal action, they are indulging in malicious propaganda and mudslinging against Virbhadra Singh,” the cabinet said in a statement here.
“Involvement of the Dhumal family is established in many cases like phone-tapping, HPCA (Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association) scam, illegal land purchase, etc. All cases are in advanced stage of investigation,” it said.
The cabinet said a charge sheet containing graft and land scam charges against Dhumal, his family members, BJP ministers and other leaders, was given to the state vigilance bureau for a fair and independent probe after the Congress came to power Dec 25, 2012.
Jaitley Monday demanded a probe and action from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress against Virbhadra Singh.
He alleged the chief minister accepted money to the tune of Rs.1.5 crore and Rs.2.4 crore, through cheques in his and his parliamentarian wife Pratibha Singh’s name, from Venture Energy and Technology Pvt. Ltd.
He said the company was given two extensions in a hydel power project despite defaulting.
“In the past few decades, no case of corruption has been so open and shut,” Jaitley said.
The cabinet said earlier Arun Dhumal, son of the former chief minister, targeted Virbhadra Singh over his income tax returns besides loans and shares taken by his family members.
“When he failed to evoke any public response, Jaitley raised same old issues in New Delhi, which had nothing substantial or material in them. All his charges are strongly refuted.”
The BJP Wednesday moved the Election Commission.
Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha president Anurag Thakur met Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath in New Delhi and sought action against Virbhadra Singh for hiding information in his election affidavits.
Thakur, an MP from Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh, said the chief minister had not declared the payments or the shares in his election affidavits.
“We told the Election Commission that if Virbhadra Singh has hidden information, strict action should be taken against him,” Thakur told IANS, adding the poll panel assured them of appropriate action in the matter.
It has been alleged the promoter of Venture Energy and Technology Pvt Ltd., given extension for a pending hydropower project by the Himachal government, made cheque payments of Rs.3.5 crore “to Virbhadra Singh and his wife, Pratibha”.
It further alleged the money was shown as loan, and Virbhadra Singh and his family became shareholders in another firm belonging to the promoter of the power company.