Virbhadra still holding onto excess land illegally – Dhumal

Shimla: Spat between chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and union minister Virbhadra Singh took a turn for the worse today, with the chief minister stating that the government was keeping all options opens about illegal possession of a piece of land by the latter and also intended to file a case regarding resale of public property at a loss of Rs 4.20 crore to the state exchequer.

Under fire from Virbhadra Singh alleging that BJP leaders including the chief minister’s family were buying land in the state, a charge leveled at Kullu on Thursday, the chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal today hit back by saying, “Virbhadra Singh continues to hold onto an 80 bigha land patch despite having submitted an affidavit stating that it had wrongly been transferred in his name.”

The government was keeping all options open in the matter, which including registering a case as well as vesting the land with the state, he said, at a hurriedly convened press conference here.

He added that after the demise of Virbhadra mother, the land patch was supposed to have vested with the state as he already held the maximum land allowed under land ceiling act but it was illegally transferred into his name.

In response to charges about land being bought by BJP leaders, Dhumal said, “law did not debar party men including his family members from buying land within the state in a fair and transparent manner by paying market prices.”

He went onto say that the largest misuse of state machinery in Himachal had been made by the former chief minister during his five terms in office.

Citing an example, the chief minister said that a loss of Rs 4.20 crore was borne by the state exchequer in a sale of a public sector unit, Himalayan Fertilizer factory in 2007 when Virbhadra Singh was also holding charge of industry ministry.

Disregarding the conditional sale of the unit for Rs 3.63 crore, the terms of reference were changed and it was permitted and the resale price of Rs 7.83 crore caused a huge loss to the state.

The unit was sold on the terms that the buyer would set up an industry on the plot and the industry department had opposed resale of the unit. Investigations in the matter are complete and the government intends to register a case soon, said Dhumal.

He also mentioned that a matter related to destroying of the old Shimla district gazetteer was known to many and was being looked into.

Denying political vendetta, the chief minister said that the audio CD case Virbhadra own doing as it was he who had taken the issue to court.

“At one end under oath in an affidavit he denies that the recorded voice on the CD was his and on the other he confesses that it relates to events that took place 21 years ago,” he said.

A visibly agitated Dhumal said, “when Pratibha Singh – wife of Virbhadra, is an MP from Mandi, it’s peoples verdict and not
promoting dynasty but when my son Anurag Thakur after cutting his teeth in politics becomes MP, it gets labeled as promoting dynasty.”

Taking offence to the union minister’s comment that apple economy had been turned into gobbar (cow dung) he said that it was a record production of apples this season and already 4.25 crore boxes had been marketed.

“Our intention of making organic fertilizers out of apples bought under market intervention scheme is being mocked at, where as horticulture minister Narinder Bragta had done a commendable job in handling the record crop under very trying conditions,” he said.

Photo by: Amit Kanwar

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