Big setback to Congress
Amba Charan Vashishth
Ultimately, five-time Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister and Union Minister Virbhadra Singh had to resign following a Himachal court, on June 25, ordering to frame charges against him and his wife, Mrs Pratibha Singh ex-MP for bribery and criminal misconduct in the infamous CD case under section 120B of IPC and sections 7, 11, 12(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The case relates to a CD purportedly containing Singh and his wife’s voices referring to some monetary transactions from industrialists.
Further proceedings in the court shall proceed further only after the High Court gives its decision on a petition filed by Virbhadra Singh.
Only two days back on June 23 Singh had celebrated his completion of 50 years in politics and celebrated his 79th birthday. He addressed a rally in Shimla where he demanded that the Congress name its chief ministerial candidate before launching its election campaign. Obviously, he was pleading for his own self.
Although twice during the last fortnight Virbhadra Singh had boldly declared that he would quit office if the court decided to frame charges against him, yet he prevaricated after the court verdict. When the court verdict was out and the media asked Singh whether he would resign, he said: “I don’t care for my office at all. I don’t want to embarrass my party and the Prime Minister. As and when the occasion arises, certainly I will take appropriate action”.
Singh met Sonia Gandhi in the evening when it is understood that he was asked to put in his papers. He resigned on 26 June morning and the resignation was accepted immediately.
The court verdict and resignation is a big setback both to the Congress and Singh. The election to Himachal assembly is due in December this year. He was hoping to lead the party to victory although the party was as yet reluctant to hand over the reins to him. So far, Singh had enjoyed a ‘clean’ image and it is a great blot to him at this advanced age and fag-end of his political career.
It may be a coincidence that the CD surfaced in 2007 when elections to State assembly were due within six months. This time the court order has come when the election process for the new assembly is to be completed in about the same period. Interestingly, two leading Congress leaders —former Union Minister Sukh Ram and former CM Virbhadra Singh — have had to face charges of corruption and incidentally they represented the same Parliamentary constituency of Mandi. This has tarnished the name of the State even.
It is very common for politicians to blame their political opponents when they are embroiled in criminal cases and dismiss the charges as “politically motivated, baseless and fabricated, aimed at character assassination”.
The controversial CD was released by a former Congress Chief Minister Maj. Vijai Singh Mankotia, who was at one time the closest to Virbhadra Singh. In 2007 Mr. Singh was the Chief Minister and he should have got his name cleared immediately through an impartial inquiry to shut the mouths of his opponents. The present BJP government did only what Singh should have done. As CM Prem Kumar Dhumal has said, “It is a court order with which his government has nothing to do.”