Politics of sleaze rages in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla, July 17 (IANS) There seems to be no end to the politics of sleaze and corruption in Himachal Pradesh.

At least two chief ministers, a senior BJP leader who is now a Lok Sabha member, a former union minister, a top police officer and now a senior cabinet minister in the Congress government here claim they have been victims of sleazy CDs and videos.

Currently, an audio CD from an unknown source has gone viral in which Health and Family Welfare Minister Kaul Singh is purportedly carrying out a personal conversation with a known businessman and a woman.

Singh has dubbed the CD a fake and said it was aimed at tarnishing his 40-year political career.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has ordered a high-level probe into it.

Political leaders say that in the past one decade attempts were made from time to time to tarnish the image of senior politicians from both the Congress and the BJP.

Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh were booked in 2009 in a corruption case by the then BJP government on the basis of an audio CD in which he was heard talking about monetary transactions on the phone.

Charges of conspiracy and corruption were framed by a Shimla court, following which Virbhadra Singh resigned as union minister.

Less than 24 hours before his swearing-in as chief minister for the sixth time in December 2012, the court acquitted Virbhadra Singh and his wife.

In a role reversal, another audio CD was circulated in March 2010 in which then chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal was heard directing then vigilance chief D.S. Manhas to tap the phones of Virbhadra Singh and his wife.

Dhumal and Manhas allegedly also talked about money.

Two other CDs were also in circulation in 2010 – an audio in which Dhumal was heard talking about former union ministers Sukh Ram and Shanta Kumar, and a video in which BJP MP Virender Kashyap was allegedly caught taking cash on camera.

Ahead of the Mandi by-election to the Lok Sabha in June 2013, a video surfaced allegedly showing a man, purported to be a former union minister, with a woman.

Taking a jibe at the chief minister, BJP legislator Rajeev Saijal and party vice president Rajiv Bharadwaj on July 14 demanded a CBI probe into the incident.

They said the Congress had indulged in such activities in the past too.

“This time Health Minister Kaul Singh has been made a victim as speculation is rife that he might become the next chief minister,” they said.

Transport Minister G.S. Bali hit back. “Nobody should be allowed to play with the privacy of an individual as it is character assassination,” he told reporters here.

The government registered a case on June 26, 2013, related to the tapping of over 1,300 telephones, mainly of Congress leaders, government functionaries and journalists, in violation of the Indian Telegraph Act.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishl.g@ians.in <mailto:vishl.g@ians.in>)

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