The Himachal Assembly’s winter session, expected to witness fireworks over the corruption cases against Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, is likely to be overshadowed by the one-on-one meeting between the CM and his predecessor, Leader of Opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had only on Friday issued summons to the chief minister on charges of money laundering, giving the BJP more ammunition to target the CM as part of its ongoing Virbhadra Hatao abhiyan.
Since the winter session id the first since the CBI raids against the chief minister, the opposition BJP is expected turn on the heat against the government. Dhumal’s role, however, will come under close scanner in the wake of the meeting, where no party MLAs were present and because of the hush-hush manner in which it had been held.
Virbhadra had set up a SIT to probe Dhumal’s assets and had been carrying out a fierce attack against him and his family, particularly the latter’s son, BJP MP Anurag Thakur, who is also the HPCA president.
The session is expected to answer the burning question in the state: Have Dhumal and Virbhadra buried the hatchet.
A senior BJP MLA said Dhumal is expected to explain his meeting with the chief minister and to state if any ‘deal’ has been struck, during the party legislature meeting scheduled for Monday — a few hours before the session. The party’s chief whip Suresh Bhardwaj, however, asserted that the Virbhadra Hatao campaign will echo in the House.
Counters Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri: “Well if the BJP raises the issue of ED and CBI cases, the Congress will show how the chief minister is being targetted as his house was raided on the day his daughter was getting married. Party MLAs and ministers have submitted a memorandum to the President, highlighting malafides of the NDA and misuse of the central agencies like the CBI”. The Congress Legislature Party, Agnihotri said, has convened a meeting on Sunday to draw up its strategy for the session.
Speaker Brij Bihari Lal Butail, who was at Dharamshala, said he will make efforts to hold an all-party meeting and seek cooperation of the opposition in the smooth running of the House. The session will have five sittings and the MLAs have so far sent over 280 questions, of which 81 are unstarred, the Speaker said. No notice of the bills has so far been issued.
Highly placed sources though said Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma is pushing for new legislation to regularise 25,000 illegal constructions through a one-time relaxation for house owners.
“I will be taking a draft bill to the cabinet on December 1 and if it is approved, a bill will be introduced in the House. Private builders and developers will not be included. The benefit will only be available to individual house owners having deviations of up to 75 percent. The fee will be lowered to half of what it was in the earlier bill,” he said.