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CM, his predecessor spar over corruption

CM, his predecessor spar over corruptionShimla, May 11 : Less than a fortnight after Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh directed the investigating agencies to speed up their probe on charges of corruption against the previous BJP regime, a verbal spat is on between him and arch rival and predecessor, Prem Kumar Dhumal.

Accusing the government of tarnishing the BJP's image, Dhumal has demanded that the allegations against his government be probed by a sitting high court judge - and that too within a short timeframe.

The demand was "irrelevant" Virbhadra Singh countered.

"A judicial probe is required where some fact-finding exercise is needed. Here, the offenses are of criminal nature. These should to be probed by the (police) investigating agencies," the chief minister told reporters in Shimla on Wednesday.

Upset over media reports regarding the Who's Who figuring in the scams and being extended favours, Dhumal this week sent a missive to the chief minister: "Some politicians as well as officials are making such speculative statements with vested interest, which must be stopped."

"I am of the firm opinion that anyone who is found guilty must not be spared and at the same time, those spreading misinformation must also be dealt with," Dhumal added.

BJP spokesperson Ganesh Dutt said Dhumal has also written a similar letter to Governor Urmila Singh.

"Dhumal himself has been demanding a probe by a sitting high court judge so that action could be taken against the guilty, but the government is silent," Dutt told IANS.

Congress leader and former legislator Kuldeep Pathania too joined the fray, asking Dhumal to first disclose the number of cases his government got investigated by a sitting judge while he was at the helm (2007-12).

He asked the BJP to wait for the probe results instead of making a hue and cry as the investigations had to take their own course.

"It seems Dhumal has lost faith in the investigating agencies due to retirement of certain top police officers," Pathania, who is now chairman of the state pollution control board, said in a statement.

Official sources said the chief minister April 30 directed the Vigilance Department and the Anti-Corruption Bureau to focus only on those charges where top government functionaries were involved.

Most of the charges, said an official, were based on a "chargesheet" the Congress, while in opposition, gave to President Pranab Mukherjee. In it, Dhumal was accused of extending favours to his son Anurag Thakur, a BJP MP, and the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), which is controlled by him.

It alleged that the government has provided several plots of land to the HPCA in various parts of the state.

The Congress had also alleged that the government has extended favours to infrastructure group Jaiprakash Associates Ltd. for setting up hydropower and cement projects and alleged land deals by former health minister Rajeev Bindal.

The Vigilance Department has sought permission to begin proceedings at least against one IFS and three IAS officers who were at one time close to Dhumal, said a senior police officer, who didn't wish to be identified.(IANS)