Virbhadra’s Absence To Test Congress Leadership In Himachal Assembly

CPS appointments, land law violations, CFL scheme to generate heat in monsoon session

Shimla: In the absence of Virbhadra Singh, state congress leadership will be on trial as the monsoon session opens up on today with issues like price rise, crop failures because of drought conditions, chief parliamentary secretaries (CPS) appointments, Himachal bonafide certification and sale of agriculture land in supersession of state laws likely to be the predominant issues that the opposition is expected to raise.

Long presence of Virbhadra Singh in Himachal Vidhan Sabha since 1983 would be felt as the assembly would be held with the former chief minister having resigned from the house to head the steel ministry in Manmohan Singh’s cabinet in Delhi.

“Congress is not short of leaders,” says Vidya Stokes, who is the leader of the opposition, adding, “there is enough ammunition in the opposition’s armoury to floor the government.”

Dropping broad hints about the issues which the opposition was likely to raise, Stokes said, “doublespeak of BJP government stands exposed over the issue of appointing 3 CPS’s. When in opposition, the party had opposed it tooth and nail and gone to court about it and now in power, without any remorse, they have made the same very appointments, she said.

Another contentious likely to generate heat is the government decision to reduce period of residency within the state from 25 to 20 years for being eligible for grant of a Himachal bonafide resident certificate.

Congress termed it a sell out by holding that this would grant land purchase rights to people, who otherwise are not entitled or reside in the state for business purposes.

“We want the residency period for grant of a bonafide certificate to be left untouched at 25 years,” says Kaul Singh, state congress president. “It is only because of opposition from us that it has been increased from 15 years that was earlier proposed to 20 years,” he claimed.

He contended that grant of a Himachal resident certificate did not directly entitle one for purchase of agricultural land but the government normally was liberal towards a bonafide resident and there was scarcity of arable land in the hill state.

Grant of a bonafide resident status entitled one to several other benefits like applying for mini-micro hydel projects and also added up to the residents problems by further crowding the unemployed list over the 9 lakh persons already registered with the labour bureau, said the congress president.

To blunt the opposition charges, the government is readying a list agriculture land sales to non-resident Himachali’s that were permitted by the previous congress government in violation of state land laws under Virbhadra Singh’s term.

Sources reveal that the revenue department has marked out about 170 such cases, with chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal having stated that an inquiry has been ordered and the truth about sale of land to non-state residents would surface.

With the government having declared the whole state as drought affected, the chief minister is expected to move a resolution, asking for the house to endorse it to seek the centres attention and aid for providing relief.

Another issues likely to crop up is the scent of a scam about compact florescent bulbs (CFL) meant for sale in Himachal under a government scheme being found to be sold in a shop in Punjab.

Though the opposition is expected to raise the issue of price rise and pick holes in the public distribution system (PDS) as well as the government subsidized ration scheme, the government has prepared a defence line to pass on the blame onto the central government policies for it.

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