As state's political giants Virbhadra Singh and Prem Kumar Dhumal lock horns once again in their 17-year fight and drag their families into it, the general public is caught in the scrum.
Virbhadra Singh's returning to power in the state in 2012 reignited his rivalry with Dhumal, the man he had unseated, bringing Dharamsala's Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) stadium and telephones tapping during the ousted Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime into controversy. Soon after assuming office as chief minister, Virbhadra ordered an inquiry against the cricket body led by Dhumal's MP son, Anurag Thakur, to look into the allegation that it was registered under the societies Act and later turned into a company on the sly to take over the assets. The fight is now getting dirty.
The HPCA is on charge sheet against the BJP government that the Congress has taken to the President. Virbhadra also told the state anti-corruption and vigilance department to open a series of investigations against the association. His cabinet even ordered overnight takeover of the cricket stadium, even though the high court, later, ordered status quo.
The CM slapped multiple cases against the predecessor and his sons, Anurag and Arun. The new government's filing cases against the former is almost a trend in the state for the past two decades but the game began to turn rough and dirty just before the last assembly elections, when now Union finance minister Arun Jaitely was first to question the income-tax returns of CM Virbhadra and point out that the income shown didn't agree with the final production. The Dhumals used it to the hilt during the assembly elections. The case is now in the court.
Dhumal and his sons remained at the forefront of attacking the CM; his wife, Pratibha Singh; daughter, Aparjita Singh; and son, Vikramaditya Singh, who heads the state Youth Congress. Vikramaditya has even led a campaign against Dhumal. Sadly, the cabinet has wasted much of its time and energy in countering the Dhumals, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has exhausted its efforts in defending them and the HPCA.
Within the Vidhan Sabha or outside, the Virbhadra-Dhumal rivalry has taken a toll on the state's development. The BJP has staged walkouts from the assembly on the HPCA and sports bill issues, while the Congress has questioned the allotment of land for the stadium and players' residential complex that was, later, turned into 72-room high-end hotel in Dharamsala.
The Central Bureau of Investigation's beginning a preliminary inquiry into the income of Virbhadra and his family is a new chapter in this long political war. The allegations of Congress spokesperson Jairam Ramesh have escalated the fighting. Virbhadra and Dhumal are once again at draggers drawn, locked in another round of offensive and counter-offensive.
How it started
The rivalry between Virbhadra Singh and Prem Kumar Dhumal started in 1998. Virbhadra fell short of majority and took the help of independent legislator Ramesh Dhawala to form a government that lasted only 13 days. Dhawala's switching sides helped Dhumal form the government with support of former Union telecom minister Sukhram's Himachal Vikas Congress (HVC). Sukhram then forced Dhumal to set Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after Virbhadra Singh. The case fell flat, but Virbhadra and Dhumal have since remained at loggerheads with each other.