Shimla: All ministers, barring Kaul Singh Thakur and Anil Sharma, turning up at Virbhadra Singh’s late morning press conference here today, set off speculations about a rift in the cabinet over the defense being put up by the chief minister against the alleged graft charges.
What had the media foxed was that the chief minister rather abruptly ended the conference call, declining to take any questions, and left directly for a scheduled cabinet meeting.
Only yesterday, the health minister Kaul Singh and Virbhadra Singh, were publically seen together inaugurating a new diagnostic facility at IGMC Hospital here.
At the conference call, the chief minister read from a written statement about having filed three criminal defamation suits against senior BJP leader Arun Jatiely and former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and his two sons Anurag Thakur and Arun Dhumal.
He said that unleashing of a malicious campaign and an unfair media trail had compelled him to file the defamation suits.
He added that establishment of imminent involvement of the Dhumal family in land scams and illegal tapping of phones in phone gate were responsible for the malicious campaign against him and his family.
“Insignificant issues about my personal income tax are being questioned through the media,” said Virbhadra.
The elaborate arrangements for the press conference and the presence of large number of Virbhadra Singh supporters at the venue was largely interpreted as a show of strength that intended to send out a subtle message over leadership issues in the state unit of the party.
The union government, only yesterday, having announced a partial extension of industrial package for Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand found no mention or acknowledgement, at the press conference.
Conspicuous absence of Kaul Singh at the rather large gathering of chief minister’s supporters today did not go unnoticed for the senior congress leader has been able to meet party president Sonia Gandhi, whereas the chief minister, despite best efforts of party mandarins, has not been able to do so after 30th December, when Arun Jatiely at Delhi publically leveled corruption charges against Virbhadra Singh and his parliamentary wife Pratibha Singh, calling it ‘an open and shut case’.