Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh unit of the Congress Tuesday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of being “in league with the land mafia” in the state.
“The government is giving protection to the land mafia in the state,” state Congress chief Kaul Singh and leader of opposition Vidya Stokes told reporters here.
Their assertions came a day after Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal raised the issue of ownership of the Annadale ground in Shimla during the chief ministers’ conference even as the army sought to clear the air by saying “there is no conflict with the state”.
The issue hovers around the prime chunk of 121 bigha (48.4 hectares) Annadale ground, surrounded by thick forests and situated 4.5 km from Shimla’s ridge, which has been under the army’s control since World War II.
The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), which is headed by Dhumal’s son and Hamirpur MP Anurag Thakur, has begun a campaign to have it restored to the state for constructing a multipurpose stadium.
“Top political functionaries have purchased a huge chunk of land around Annadale ground. Now the government is eyeing to get the land vacated (from the army) and hand it over to the HPCA,” Kaul Singh said, adding “under the guise of developing a stadium there, its (the government) aiming to develop malls, private cottages and five-star hotels in private areas in the vicinity of Annadale.”
The Congress leaders said that since the issue of ground “is related to the national security, the state should resolve it amicably with the army”.
They also question the government for extending favours to HPCA, a private commercial organisation HPCA.
Brig A.K. Sharma of the army’s Western Command told reporters Monday that the Annadale ground which is in its possession since World War II is strategically and logistically important for the army to carry out exercises and operations in forward areas.
“The Annadale ground is logically, operationally and from the disaster point of view very critical,” Sharma said.
He said the army has “no issue with the state government”.
Dhumal had said the land belonged to the state government and was under unlawful occupation of the army. He said the land was given to the army on lease for 10 years and the term was extended. He added that the lease had not been renewed for the last 30 years.