Invariably at loggerheads, Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh and his arch-rival and predecessor Prem Kumar Dhumal took the political circles by surprise on Wednesday as they went into a secret huddle.
The meeting took place behind closed doors at Virbhadra’s official residence Oak Over in the presence of his son and Himachal Pradesh Youth Congress president Vikramaditya Singh.
The meeting between the two political adversaries comes in the backdrop of Virbhadra setting up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe Dhumal’s properties, and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) cases against the former.
While he wasn’t aware of the meeting or its proceedings, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president Satpal Singh Satti said it must have been held to discuss the issues to be raised in the forthcoming winter session of the state assembly.
The state vigilance and anti-corruption bureau (SVACB) had on November 7 constituted the SIT to probe into the properties of Dhumal and his two sons, parliamentarian Anurag Thakur and Arun Singh.
Having a three-month deadline, the SIT will investigate the properties owned by Dhumal and his relatives within and outside the state.
On the other hand, the CBI had registered a preliminary enquiry (PE), which was converted into a regular case this September, against the CM and his family members for allegedly amassing wealth of `6.1 crore, alleging that it was disproportionate to their known sources of income during 2009-2011 when he was serving as Union minister of steel in the UPA government.
The case was followed by CBI raids at Virbhadra’s official residence and several other places, on the day of the marriage of his daughter on September 26.
The CBI has claimed that during the raids, several incriminating documents, property papers, investments, hard disks and pen drives had been recovered.
Later, on November 14, taking cognizance of the CBI case against Virbhadra, the Enforcement Directorate registered a money-laundering case against him. This was followed by ED sleuths conducting searches at about a dozen premises in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata on some associates of Singh and those named in the FIR.
The acrimony between Virbhadra and Dhumal has been growing ever since the former took over the reins of the state government in December 2012. Right after returning to power, the CM ordered a probe against Dhumal’s elder son Anurag Thakur, who also heads the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA).
Going a step further, the Congress-led government took over the HPCA properties in a midnight swoop, leading the association to move the Himachal Pradesh high court that ordered a status quo.