Call it what you will - politics of vendetta or operation clean-up - but the leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) and chief minister-designate Virbhadra Singh on Sunday asserted that his first priority would be to tackle the corruption allegedly perpetuated by the ousted BJP government. He also said that decisions like the closure of 700 primary schools would be rolled back.
"Heads will roll," the 78-year-old leader told HT, revealing plans to set up "many special investigation teams" to probe graft charges against the Prem Kumar Dhumal-led regime. He did not, however, specify who would be part of the probe units.
A major point of reference would be the Congress "chargesheet" issued a few months ago that had listed violation of land laws to facilitate proxy deals as a major concern. "Thousands of acres were allotted to outsiders," reiterated Virbhadra, "If need be, our government will set up special courts for speedy trial of corruption cases."
He also hinted at changes in the state vigilance bureau: "While little action was taken against the corrupt, the innocent people were trapped in false cases." And there was a not-so-veiled warning to bureaucrats, as he hinted a probe into construction of cottages in Beer Khana: "It astonishes me how a government could allow luxury flats in dense forest. You may find heads rolling over the permissions granted."
All set to take oath on December 25 for his sixth term as Himachal CM, Virbhadra announced that his government would revert "anti-people" decisions like the one to close down 700 primary schools. "This decision has adversely affected the education aspirations of poor students," he said.
He also declared that the Himachal Administrative Tribunal, which had been disbanded during the BJP regime, would be revived and a circuit benche each would be be set up in Mandi and Dharamsala.
Listing roads, health and education as his priorities, he claimed, "There was no real development in the state. It was all propaganda."
Accusing the previous BJP government of carrying out political vendetta against him and Congress leaders, Virbhadra, who started his political career by entering the Lok Sabha in 1962, said he was made to face court cases each time Dhumal came to power. "Last time (1998-2003) he came, he registered a case against me. Later I came out clean. This time too he has booked me in a corruption case on the basis of an audio CD whose origin is not known," he said.
Taking a jibe at rivals within his own party, Virbhadra said: "They are my brothers and sisters. But sadly they have gone astray."
Born heir to the erstwhile princely state of Rampur-Bushahr, Virbhadra resigned as union minister for micro, small and medium enterprises in June after a Shimla court order in a 23-year-old corruption case.
His rivals accuse Singh of hogging all the space for Congress leadership in the state and disallowing others from growing to their potential. Countering such criticism, he asked: "Where were they when I was away from state politics for over three years?" (IANS inputs)