New Delhi: Faced with a corruption case during his tenure as the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, Union Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Minister and Congress MP Virbhadra Singh has resigned from the Union Cabinet following the framing of charges against him and his wife Pratibha Singh. Virbhadra Singh is accused of misusing his office when he was the Himachal Pradesh chief minister in 1989 and granting favours to industrialists.
Virbhadra Singh's resignation, submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday at his & Race Course Road residence in New Delhi, is aimed at taking the sting out of Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) charge. With the state facing election by the end of 2012 and corruption emerging as a big issue, the Congress feels that by resigning the former Himachal chief minister has been able to take the moral high ground as the party can counter the BJP by pointing out that its leaders have put in their papers when accused of corruption.
According to the charges framed against the former chief minister on Monday, he allegedly granted favours to industrialists and his conversation was recorded in a audio CD. In the CD Virbhadra is allegedly heard speaking with IAS officer Mohinder Lal and some industrialists regarding alleged monetary transactions for them to invest in the state.
Claiming that he was being framed, Virbhadra Singh said,"Nobody has ever raised a finger ever on my honesty and integrity. When PK Dhumal became the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister he fabricated the case based on false evidence. I faced the trial and the case was dismissed by the sessions court in Shimla. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister PK Dhumal is back to his old antics. I intend to resign to devote full time to fight the case. I intend to catch the bull by horns. I am not afraid of facing trial as my conscience is clear. I will go to court of law and court of people and expose all."
However, Dhumal said that accusing others won't help Virbhadra much. "It is a tragedy that people commit mistake and when they are cought they try to find mistake. This was a scam that happened in his tenure. Accusing others does not suit him. The allegations were levelled aganist him by his own colleague."
"The recording was done when he was the chief minister. His Cabinet colleague had raised the allegations and released the CD. He should have introspected. I was not there when the recording was done. He himself took the case to court and had sought a stay on the release of the CD. Congress has always stood by its corrupt leaders," Dhumal said.
BJP ally and NDA convener Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United) criticised Virbhadra Singh for taking a long time to resign, saying that he should have quit on his own.
"Virbhadra Singh should have given his resignation on his own. He should not have waited for consent from the High Command. This is not good for the country," said Sharad Yadav.
Charges were framed against 78-year-old Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh under Section 120 B (conspiracy) of IPC and Sections 7,11 and 13 of Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) dealing with bribery and criminal misconduct in the 23-year-old case.
The prosecution had filed a chargesheet in 2010. Sources say that Virbhadra had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi in May to apprise them of the court verdict.