A day after he was removed as Vice President of Himachal Pradesh Tourism development Board, Congress leader Vijay Singh Mankotia asked Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh to resign on moral grounds and save the state from further “shame and disgrace”. However, state Forest Minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri and Excise and Taxation Minister Prakash Chaudhary reacted sharply to Mankotia’s remark, saying his removal indicated desperation of a person who has been “repeatedly rejected” by the people. “No chief minister had ever shamed the state to the extent Virbhadra Singh has and it is high time that he resign to save the Congress,” Mankotia said, adding that 80 per cent population of the state would welcome his resignation. Addressing mediapersons here today, he ridiculed Virbhadra Singh’s claim of becoming chief minister for the seventh time, saying that on one hand he was seeking bail in courts on “health grounds” and on the other he is claiming to be fit and fine to run the government again. Questioning his removal from the post, Mankotia said Virbhadra Singh, who has been facing criminal cases and corruption charges, should have been removed from his post. He added that every time Virbhadra Singh became chief minister, the Congress lost the election and his claims of popularity would have gained credence had he won polls three or four times in succession like chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha and Sikkim.
Referring to poll prospects of Congress, Mankotia said the BJP was way ahead in campaign and every day some central minister, national BJP leader or BJP chief minister is in the state holding rallies, while the situation of the Congress is so dismal that the chief minister had to go from street to street in Shimla Municipal Corporation election but failed to stop the saffron party. Quoting an article published in a popular magazine which described Virbhadra Singh as “rotten apple” while giving details of cases against him, Mankotia wondered “why he did not sue the magazine for defamation if the charges were wrong.” He urged the party high command to take prompt action by removing Virbhadra Singh to give “Congress a chance for survival” in the state. “I am a game changer and I have demonstrated this twice in the past and now my main task would be to target the close associates of the chief minister, including political leaders and bureaucrats, who have made the chief minister captive and allegedly involved in corruption,” he said. Alleging that power brokers are running the government, Mankotia said he would “expose” these elements and rid the Congress government from their clutches.
He said the opposition should have asked the chief minister about the money being “arranged and spent on court cases” and added that the disclosures reportedly made by Tilak Raj, joint director, industries, who was arrested by CBI are startling and if the reports that he has named some big wigs close to power is true, it is a serious matter. He said he was not joining the BJP or the AAP but would “definitely” contest the Assembly elections from Shahpur constituency irrespective of the fact if he gets the Congress ticket or not. When asked whether he was in touch with other disgruntled leaders, Mankotia said, “Neither I have contacted any Congress MLA nor any MLA has talked to me. It is the beginning and more things will unfold in days to come as revival of the Congress under the leadership of Virbhadra Singh is not possible.”
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“Bringing the Congress back to power is an uphill task but not impossible as the BJP too is divided and if the Congress projects a united face, possibilities of returning to power cannot be ruled out,” he said. He also said that it was “unfortunate” that like RJD chief Lalu Yadav’s family in Bihar, all family members of Virbhadra Singh are facing corruption charges in criminal cases. State ministers Bharmouri and Chaudhary claimed that Mankotia was in a habit of making “false and unfounded” allegations against the government and the chief minister whenever elections were round the corner. “It seems once again he is playing into the hands of the BJP and trying to mislead the people by spreading all sort of lies,” they said in joint statement here.
They said that after enjoying the benefits of power, Mankotia was speaking against the chief minister and the government “which amply speaks of double standards”. “Mankotia’s claim that 80 per cent people want resignation of Virbhadra Singh is ridiculous. Perhaps he is issuing such malicious statements just to please the BJP leaders,” they said.
As far as appointment of chief secretary is concerned, they said, it is always prerogative of the state government to appoint officer of its own choice and Mankotia has no right to raise questions about it.