The growing acrimony between chief minister Virbhadra Singh and his bete noire former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal was more than visible at the Raj Bhawan during the swearing-in of Archarya Dev Vrat, who took over as 27th governor of the state here on Wednesday.
Both leaders have been at loggerheads ever since the Congress government took over the reins in 2012. Dhumal arrived 10 minutes before Dev Vrat was sworn in by chief justice of the Himachal Pradesh high court Mansor Ahmed Mir. Dhumal, on reaching the Durbar Hall, exchanged pleasantries with state health minister Kaul Singh Thakur, industries minister Mukesh Agnihotri and the other dignitaries present.
CM Virbhadra reached the venue a few minutes before chief secretary P Mitra read out the warrant of the appointment. Virbhadra was seated at the dais along with governor Archarya Dev Vrat and chief justice Mir. It was during the tea after the swearing-in that Virbhadra and Dhumal exchanged brief pleasantries that did not last for more than half a minute. During the tea, Virbhadra was seated along with the Governor and Dhumal.
The bitterness between the two leaders was evident as they both had tea together but did not utter a word to each other. Dhumal spent most of his time conversing with Kaul Singh – who recently returned to Shimla after his heart surgery at a private hospital in Chandigarh. Virbhadra left the Raj Bhawan soon after the tea was over.
Kaul Singh Thakur has been in the thick of controversy after an audio compact disc containing his purported telephonic conversations were selectively leaked to media houses, bureaucrats and political leaders. Thakur had outrightly blamed Virbhadra’s close aide and Delhi resident commissioner IPS officer AP Singh for the leak.
“All types of mafias are active during the Congress regime. The roads are in a bad shape and the people are suffering,” Dhumal told reporters after the high tea.
Dhumal’s criticism came just a day after when Virbhadra Singh had offered to withdraw remarks against Dhumal and his MP son Anurag Thakur.
Barring Kaul Singh and Mukesh Agnihotri, social justice minister Dhani Ram Shandil and chief parliamentary secretaries Sohan Lal Thakur, no other Congress minister was present at the ceremony.
On the other hand, a battery of BJP leaders, including state BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti and Haryana’s health minister Anll Vij, attended the event.