Virbhadra Singh, leading the Congress campaign for the Himachal Pradesh polls on November 4, is fighting the last political battle of his career that has spanned more than 50 years. In an interview with HT, the five-time former CM dismissed the controversy surrounding the alleged payoffs by Ispat Industries to “VBS”. Excerpts:
Before every election, you face allegations of wrongdoing. This time it is the “VBS” row, which the BJP has latched on to?
They know my potential. They are morally and mortally afraid of me. They want to damage my clean image with false propaganda. Dhumal (chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal) has tried to frame me earlier as well.
Can you elaborate on the alleged payoff to “VBS”?
What has appeared in the media is totally false and fabricated. I am not “VBS” (a document seized by the income-tax department from the offices of Ispat Industries in Delhi in 2010 lists four payments totalling nearly Rs 2.28 crore to a “VBS” between October 28, 2009 and August 24, 2010). Entries have directly named Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan. Why is the BJP silent on that?
Did you seek ticket for your wife, Pratibha Singh, this time?
Yes, I did, but never pressed for it.
Why did you reach a compromise with arch-rival Vijay Singh Mankotia?
I said in public at Shahpur (Mankotia’s home turf) that it is political compulsion. I have personal differences with him. Despite these differences, he was brought back in the larger interest of the party. His entry will strengthen the party.
Are you confident Congress will form the government?
Yes. I know the people of Himachal Pradesh very well. I know what they feel now.