Mired in the worst legal battle of his political career that spans over 50 years, Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra on Sunday made a dash for New Delhi leaving the political circles agog with all kinds of speculations.
The visit comes ahead of the October 14 hearing of a PIL filed against Virbhadra by Delhi-based NGO Common Cause in November 2013 for allegedly amassing assets beyond his known sources of income during his earlier tenure as the CM and a Union minister in UPA II.
However, Virbhadra has challenged the maintainability of the petition, saying it was filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan with a “motive” as the state government had initiated action against him in a land allotment matter.
Having returned to the state capital from Hamirpur late on Saturday night, the CM made an unscheduled trip to New Delhi with his principal private secretary on Sunday morning and returned later in the afternoon in the state helicopter.
Though the CM’s office has kept his visit under wraps, it is learnt he left for Delhi to consult his lawyers and other legal luminaries over his cases pending in the Delhi high court.
On Monday, Virbhadra will preside over the state cabinet meeting. According to sources, the CM’s office had asked the general administration department (GAD) to cut short the agenda fixed for the cabinet meeting as the CM might return late from Delhi.
Virbhadra in 2012 filed revised income tax returns for 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 that showed manifold increase in his incomes from apple orchards. The income of Rs 7.35 lakh for 2009-10 rose to Rs 2.21 crore; for 2010-11, Rs 15 lakh increased to Rs 2.80 crore; and for 2011-12, the income of Rs 25 lakh rose to Rs 1.55 crore. Following complaints, the income tax department sent a notice to the CM, asking him to explain the increases.
Besides the PIL, the CM currently faces income tax investigations, a case in the Income Tax Tribunal, a money laundering investigation by the Enforcement Directorate and another income tax case in the Himachal Pradesh high court.
More recently, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered an FIR against Virbhadra for disproportionate assets on September 23. The case was followed by CBI raids at the CM’s private residence, Holly Lodge in Shimla, and 11 other premises, including his farmhouse in Delhi and an orchard in Dhamrarali on September 26.
Since the raids, the Bharatiya Janata Party has been gunning for his ouster, while the unfazed Virbhadra continues to defend himself single-handedly. On Saturday, Virbhadra took on his political archrival former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal at his home turf — Hamirpur — for trying to destabilise the state government to return to power.