Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Anurag Thakur said on Wednesday that former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Virbhadra Singh has become senile, after Singh threatened mediapersons with dire consequences for asking him questions in connection with a graft case.
"Today his own people have deserted him, because he is corrupt, a fraud and a taker of bribes. The Congress is also keeping its distance from him. It is most unfortunate that he is targeting the media. I think he has lost his mind," Thakur said.
A leading national newspaper 'The Hindu' had reported that Singh had changed his income tax documents from 2008 onwards to show a back-dated contract and a highly inflated income of around 65 million rupees from apple orchards.
The money was deposited in the account of Anand Chauhan, a person was appointed by Singh to manage his apple orchards and to invest the income from the sale of apples in government securities such as insurance policies.
Chauhan then used this money from his account to pay the insurance premiums of LIC (Life Insurance Corporation) policies issued his name as well as the names of his wife and two children.
Earlier, Himachal Pradesh state police booked Singh along with his wife in 2009 under the Prevention of Corruption Act for allegedly misusing his official position and for criminal misconduct while he was the chief minister of the state in 1989.
Police reports suggested that Singh and his wife were charged after an audiocassette by Singh's political adversary Vijai Singh Mankotia was released in 2007. The audiotape allegedly had telephonic conversation of Singh with Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer Mahinder Lal, who is now dead. The cassette also contained voices of his wife and some industrialists, also identified by police, proposing to invest in the state.
Commenting on the multiple allegations against Singh, social activist Kumar Vishwas said in Kaushambi district of northern Uttar Pradesh state that the people of his province must ensure he gets a reply by an electoral loss.
"The Shimla court has taken cognizance of the charges levelled against Singh. Government lab tests have proved that the voices in the CDs are those of Singh and his wife, where he is talking to a bureaucrat about bribes. In spite of this, he continues to be arrogant. The ball is in the voters' court now. If he wins the poll from his seat, then the people of the country will have to accept that they are themselves responsible for the problems faced by them," Vishwas said.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Nawab Malik termed Singh's behaviour as inexcusable, while saying that the media also needed to rein in its pursuit of politicians outside of their public life.
"Through the media, positive and negative things are communicated to the public. It is the duty of politicians to put their case in front of the people. No one can condone such a statement made out of frustration. However, the media often hounds public figures when they try to go about their private lives. That must be avoided as well," Malik said in Mumbai city.
Continuing the now-familiar volley of cross-allegations between the country's two biggest political parties, the Congress accused the BJP of double standards.
"The BJP employs double standards. When one of their own is targeted, they adopt a different yardstick. When someone else is targeted, they clamour for a resignation. They need to introspect," said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari in Ludhiana.
It has also been alleged that Singh was paid a bribe of over Rs.2 crore by a private firm when he was the steel minister of India from 2009 to 2011.
A news channel on October 12 aired a report, based on documents from the income tax department, stating that the bureaucrats and the officials associated with the steel and coal ministries were bribed during 2009-2010.
Reportedly, the documents were based on entries found in a diary seized during a raid on Ispat Industries Ltd. in December 2010. ingh headed the steel ministry from May 2009 to January 2011 and is now campaigning for the polls to the provincial legislature in India's northern state of Himachal Pradesh. (ANI)