Friday, September 22, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Rao-Virbhadra row hots up
Tribune News Service

SHIMLA, Sept 21 — The organisational election process of the Congress has taken an ugly turn in Himachal Pradesh. The chairman of the pradesh election authority, Mr Hanumantha Rao, has made some objectionable remarks against the CLP leader, Mr Virbhadra Singh, and the latter accusing him of having become a representative of those who were rigging the elections.

Mr Virbhadra Singh’s strongly worded statement was released here today in response to the reported remarks of Mr Rao against him. Mr Rao is reported to have said at Hamirpur yesterday that Mr Virbhadra Singh was trying to break the Congress party and also accused him of functioning like a feudal.

Taking objection to the remarks of Mr Rao, Mr Virbhadra Singh accused him of functioning in a partisan manner by allowing large scale rigging by a particular group and not ensuring a free and fair poll.

He accused Mr Rao of hatching a conspiracy to break the party by allowing large scale bunglings in the elections. Mr Rao will be personally responsible for any damage to the party.

Mr Virbhadra Singh demanded that re-election should be held at all places where complaints of rigging were received.

He said he did not require a certificate from Mr Rao about his functioning as the people of the state knew him for the past over 40 years.

He accused Mr Rao of being prejudiced against him and said that ‘‘I’’ had always become a legislator and Chief Minister through democratic process.

On the other hand, Mr H.S. Bhajee, the PCC general secretary and 11 others have in a statement said that it was said that a “disgruntled” section of the party was trying to create an impression as if the election for the Shimla (urban) were rigged. The elections were held in a free and fair manner, he claimed.

Meanwhile, the 16 councillors of the Shimla Municipal Corporation, including the Mayor, Mrs Jenny Prem, released to the press copy of their resignations from the Congress in which they have accused some “rootless” persons claiming themselves to be national level leaders of having unleashed “goondaism” here during the organisational elections. They expressed faith in the leadership of Mr Virbhadra Singh and said they would not remain in the party in which some rootless persons were trying to grab positions through rigging.

The signatories to the joint resignation letter are: Mrs Jenny Prem, Mr Shashi Shekhar, Deputy Mayor, Mr Manoj Kumar, Mr Yadupati Sood, Mr D.D. Verma, Mr Ravinder Singh Thakur, Mr I.D. Lakhanpal, Mr Roop Chand, Mrs Mala Singh, Mr Narendera Kataria, Mr Satish Verma, Mr Sanjay Sharma, Mr Harkrishan Singh Thakur, Mrs Kusum Chauhan, Mrs Sushma Chauhan and Mrs Sunita Kashyap.

SOLAN: A majority of the active Congressmen here are perturbed over the manner of party elections held here.

Nearly 130 Virbhadra loyalists, out of a total electoral college of 206 today collectively sent a signed memorandum to Mr Hanumantha Rao.

They, in their memorandum have alleged that the assistant returning officer, Mr Ashok Sood, who had been deputed to hold the organisational elections here, had acted in a fraudulent manner by declaring the results without even completing the election process.

Giving a detailed account of Tuesday’s proceedings, they, in the memorandum, said that Mr Sood left the polling station after inviting nominations and subsequently withdrawals also. Before leaving he had informed the delegates present that he was going out to fetch the ballot papers and that the casting of votes would commence after his return.

They said they were surprised when a local mediaperson told the waiting delegates that as per a press note faxed to him by the ARO, the election process had been completed and the results announced. The mediaperson even produced a copy of the fax message, according to which Mr Shiv Kumar, Mr Narayan Singh Mr Hem Raj and Mr Anil Sharma had been unanimously elected PCC delegate, president and vice-presidents respectively. Six persons, including Ms Sharda Verma and Mr Krishna Mehta were declared elected as DCC delegates.

Significantly both Ms Sharda Verma and Ms Krishna Mehta as also “vice-president elect”, Mr Anil Sharma are amongst the signatories to the memorandum.

The memorandum has demanded announcement of a date for holding the organisational elections afresh, seeking Mr Hanumantha Rao’s intervention.

Meanwhile, Mr Anil Sharma, a prominent Youth Congress leader and a “vice-president elect”, in a separate letter sent to the AICC, chief, Mr Sonia Gandhi, after informing about the fact of Solan elections having been rigged, had pleaded for running the party on democratic lines.

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