Virbhadra Singh, the chief minister of India’s northern Himachal Pradesh from the ruling Congress party, finds himself against the wall over charges of corruption.
The opposition nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has alleged that the veteran Congress leader and his spouse received bribes to the tune of Rs 4 crore ($647,240) from a power company.
The allegations levelled by the BJP leader Arun Jaitley comes at a time when the Congress is attempting to project an image of a party that is serious in fighting corruption.
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the BJP leader accused Virbhadra Singh of giving extension to the promoters of Venture Energy and Technology Private Limited for completing a hydro-electric power project, over-ruling an earlier government decision to terminate the contract on grounds of default in execution, reports said on Wednesday.
Jaitley alleged that in return for the extension, Vakamulla Chandrashekhar, promoter of Venture, gave an unsecured loan of Rs 1.5 crore ($242,715) and Rs 2.40 crore ($388,344) to Ms Pratibha Singh and Mr Singh respectively.
Further, the BJP leader charged Singh of investing the money in shares in a company, also promoted by Chandrashekhar. These shares were procured in the names of Singh’s family members and an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) who was with him when he was federal minister of steel a few years earlier, reports said, quoting Jaitley’s allegations.
Singh has denied all the allegations and has said he is open to any inquiry.
The chief minister, not content with denials, has rushed to the capital New Delhi to meet Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and his son Rahul Gandhi, the party vice president, and convince them of his innocence.
The Congress leadership has expressed itself stridently against corruption in recent weeks, particularly after the rout it suffered in the recent Delhi state elections which was won by a rank newcomer Aam Aadmi Party on an anti-corruption agenda.
Singh, a five-time chief minister, is considered an old warhorse who managed to dethrone the BJP in his state in elections last year. But, corruption charges have dogged Singh in his long innings as Congress politician but, until now, he has managed to emerge unscathed.
Source: Al Jazeera