Irked over the recent move by the chief minister's office to grant an extension to horticulture director Gurudev Singh, irrigation & public health minister Vidya Stokes called for a progress report of the department and Singh's performance during his tenure.
The row erupted after chief minister Virbhadra Singh took a dig at Stokes at a public meeting in Kangra when he remarked: "Ministers should keep abreast about their departments' affairs." He also justified the extension, saying Singh's term was extended in accordance with government policy.
Stokes, who has maintained she was kept out of the loop, said: "I wasn't aware Singh had been given an extension as didn't see any government orders. I have no personal issue but am concerned about the activities of my department and the progress made in the past two years," adding she was now questioning the prerogative of the CM's office to grant such an extension. "My only concern is horticultural development in the state," she said.
Stokes has summoned records from the horticulture directorate about its performance over the past two years. "I've asked it to apprise me about ongoing projects and the work of its officials," she added.
Stokes had earlier pulled up the department over its apple orchards in the state after she received several reports about their "degradation". "The horticulture department has orchards in several locations but their output isn't satisfactory, which is becoming a reason people don't trust its advisories," said an official requesting anonymity.
According to sources, Stokes was not happy with Singh since she took over the reins of the department. A senior government functionary said she had twice apprised Virbhadra about her annoyance with the director. "One of the reason behind Stokes's annoyance was Singh's tours with most of them being to Hamirpur district, which is his native place."
Political analysts are of the opinion that the rift between Stokes and the chief minister deepened after the former attended transport minister GS Bali's rally in Nagrota Bagwan.