The widening differences between Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and health minister Kaul Singh Thakur were more than evident -rather overshadowed - at the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee's executive meeting convened in Hamirpur, the hometown of opposition BJP leader and former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal. While Thakur and his associates deliberately skipped the meeting Virbhadra cancelled his scheduled trip at the last moment, ostensibly due to bad weather.
Thakur was scheduled to attend meeting in Hamirpur but he opted to visit Chandigarh for a personal engagement. What was more conspicuous was that legislators owing allegiance to Thakur also gave the crucial meeting a miss. Thakur's trusted lieutenants, chief parliamentary secretary Sunder Agar, legislator Sohan Lal Thakur, Jubbal Kotkhai MLA Rohit Thakur and vice-chairman of the national commission for schedule castes & tribes Ravi Thakur, also did not attend the meeting.
THOSE WHO REMAINED ABSENT
Garget MLA Rakesh Kalia, who is also secretary of the All India Congress Committee, skipped the meeting as did AICC secretary and Dalhousie legislator Asha Kumari and Rajya Sabha member Viplove Thakur and chief parliamentary secretary Mansa Ram. Those who attended the meeting included former MLA Kuldeep Kumar, PCC vice-presidents Chander Kumar, Gangu Ram Musafir and Geeta Negi, general secretaries Harbhajan Singh Bhajji, Ram Lal Thakur, transport minister GS Bali, industries minister Mukesh Agnihotri, Social Justice & Empowerment Minister Dhani Ram Shandil, CPS ID Lakhanpal, Rajesh Dharmani, all MLAs, Naresh Chauhan, Sanjay Singh Chauhan, Kuldeep Singh Pathania, all 17 DCC presidents, all 68 BCC presidents, block observers, spokespersons and heads of all PCC departments and frontal organizations.
RIFT BETWEEN KAUL, CM WIDENS
The rift between Virbhadra and Thakur widened after audio compact disc purportedly containing his telephonic conversation with a woman and many others was leaked. Takur had outrightly blamed Virbhadra's close confidante, AP Singh, an IPS officer who is the state's resident commissioner in New Delhi, for the "leak". He had called it a "political conspiracy" against him and obliquely blamed the chief minister for "hatching conspiracies".
At today's HPCC executive committee meeting it was decided to appoint 17-whole time secretaries in all 17 organizational districts of the state and discussion on finalizing dates for holding a district level convention and membership drive was also held.
CONG TO APPOINT 17 SECYS
Addressing participants, HPCC chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said: "At present there is better coordination between the party organisation and the Congress government in the state and various steps are being taken to resolve the issues of party workers. With this objective the Congress has decided to appoint whole-time secretaries in all 17 organizational districts in Himachal who will work for protection, projection and promotion of party cadres and young leadership in the state. They will also ensure party cadres grievances are heard and their grievances resolved by leaders of their concerned districts."
"Further, it has also been observed and felt that the party workers always find apparent communication gap between cadre and party leaders which these whole time Secretaries would try to bridge," he said, adding that they would also try to curb resentment among party cadre if there is any. He said that these whole time Secretaries would also submit feedback and report of organizations functioning in these districts to PCC president and Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh," he added.
SUKHU FLAYS MODI GOVT
Sukhu criticised the Modi led BJP government at the centre for "backtracking on all poll promises." "Apart from false promises of bringing 'achhe din' (good days) for the people of the country, the Modi government had also backtracked on its promise of adopting zero tolerance towards corruption by not taking action against its tainted leaders," he added.
Sukhu criticised the BJP led NDA government for initiating a CBI preliminary inquiry against Virbhadra and described the move as an act of political vendetta. He also condemned the "CD leak" incident, calling it "invasion into the personal life of a person".
Calling the "chargesheet" against the Congress party led state that the BJP submitted to the governor a "political stunt", Sukhu said: "The baseless charge sheet is just a thinly disguised attempt to divert the attention of people from the failure of the government to speed up development in the state. BJP leaders including former CM Dhumal and Hamirpur MP Anurag Thakur seem to be frustrated with the popular and pro-development Congress party led government in Himachal and now they're indulging in such political dramas to attract media glare. The Congress government has done tremendous work in the field of social, health and education sector and has launched various people centric schemes for the welfare of all sections of society."
Speaking at the meeting, Bali urged all ministers, legislators, Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee office bearers and party workers to work in united manner to "fight against communal forces" in the country, while Agnihotri said if the central government continued to "curtail the rights of states" Himachal would lodge a strong protest against such a move.