Monday, November 27, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Rebels refuse to relent 
No end in sight to HP crisis
From S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

SHIMLA, Nov 26 — There is no end in sight yet to the crisis in the ruling BJP in Himachal Pradesh as the six rebel legislators, including three ministers, refuse to relent until their four main demands are met by the Chief Minister, Mr P.K. Dhumal, and the central party leadership.

The rebel legislators, who withdrew support to Mr Dhumal yesterday, kept aloof from him at a marriage function of a party functionary at Una today.

Mr Dhumal remained closeted with the party General Secretary, Mr Narendra Modi, the state BJP chief, Mr Jai Kishen Sharma, and his ministerial colleagues, Mr J.P. Nadda, Mr Rajan Sushant and Mr Parveen Sharma, in the rest house at Bharwain near Chintpurni for several hours to chalk out a strategy to deal with the situation that has caused a lot of embarrassment to the BJP government.

The situation may now be handled by the central leadership of the BJP as nothing came out of the meeting between the CM and Mr Shanta Kumar at Delhi yesterday.

A rebel leader, Mr Dulo Ram, who has also signed the letter withdrawing support to Mr Dhumal, told this correspondent that a rapprochement was possible in case their four main demands were accepted by the leadership. The demands are removal of Mr Narendra Modi from the Himachal scene, removal of the PWD Minister, Mr Mohinder Singh from the Cabinet, “balancing” in the constitution of the BJP Executive Committee and the election committee in the state and termination of the OSD, Mr Omkar Thakur, who has been re-employed after his retirement by the Chief Minister in his office.

The rebel ministers were present at Una since last evening along with the Union Minister, Mr Shanta Kumar. They left before Mr Dhumal arrived there in the morning from Delhi. The Transport Minister, Mr K.K. Kapoor, went to his hometown of Dharamsala, while the Irrigation Minister, Mr Ramesh Dhawala, was at Jawalamukhi.

It is learnt that Mr Shanta Kumar had a brief meeting with Mr Dhumal at the marriage party, but nothing much about the crisis was discussed. He left for Delhi in the afternoon.

Sources said the rebels had made it clear that they would accept nothing short of a one-time settlement of their demands. Otherwise, they would not hesitate to take a drastic step which might endanger the Dhumal government.

The PWD Minister, Mr Mohinder Singh, today reportedly described the BJP as “anti-poor” at a function at Nachan in Mandi district.

The leader of the Opposition, Mr Virbhadra Singh, today demanded that Mr Dhumal should honour the constitution and immediately resign as his government had been reduced to a minority and in view of the fact that his own ministers and legislators had expressed lack of faith in him.

In a statement, Mr Virbhadra Singh said the development had created a turmoil in the politics of the state. The Governor, Dr Suraj Bhan, should decline any advice by the Chief Minister to dissolve the Vidhan Sabha in order to ride over the crisis.

He said the letter of no-confidence signed by the BJP ministers and legislators had levelled serious charges of corruption against the government which amounted to “confession of corruption” in the government. It had mentioned corruption in the PWD, the Public Service Commission, the State Services Selection Board, Himachal Pradesh University, Kangra Central Cooperative Bank, government and semi-government departments.

It had also mentioned “vindictive” action against political opponents. Both charges were also made in the Congress “charge sheet” submitted to the Governor in August.

Mr Dhumal stands fully exposed now when these allegations have been made by his own men”.

Mr Virbhadra Singh said the continuation of such state of affairs would only further undermine the “stability, integrity and well-being of the state”.


Rebels fire salvo at crucial time
Tribune News Service

SHIMLA, Nov 26 — The revolt by six legislators of the ruling BJP, including three ministers, has created unexpected problems for the Chief Minister, Mr P.K. Dhumal, and may have a fallout on the coming panchayat elections in the state for which the party is making preparations on a big scale.

The development has come at a time when the prestige of the party is at stake although the situation in the opposition Congress is equally bad with the two factions indulging in street fights over the question of party leadership.

Discontent had been brewing in the Shanta Kumar faction of the BJP for the past nearly four years when the organisation was captured by Mr Dhumal allegedly with the support of Mr Narendra Modi, who is looking after the affairs of the party in the high command. Shanta men have been demanding the removal of Mr Modi from the Himachal scene. They were irked when Mr Modi was again given charge of the party affairs recently despite their protest with the central leadership. This, perhaps, was one of the major breaking point.

They were further disappointed recently when the executive committee and the election committee were set up by the BJP high command by loading it with men of the Dhumal camp and the other group getting a pittance.

The rebels have been demanding dropping of the PWD Minister, Mr Mohinder Singh, from the Cabinet where his continuance is “creating a bad name for the party”. However, Mr Dhumal refused to accept their demand on one pretext or the other.

They were annoyed when Mr Dhumal refused to give the party ticket to a senior leader, Mr Mohinder Sofat, for the Solan Assembly byelection and gave the mandate to one of his “favourites”. The seat had fallen vacant after Mr Sofat pursued his petition against the then Congress MLA, Mr Krishna Mohni, up to the Supreme Court.

Apparently, Mr Dhumal was in the know-how of the developments that have come and had reportedly made efforts to patch up with the HVC leader, Mr Sukh Ram, who had been maintaining a distance from the Chief Minister whom he had been accusing of splitting the HVC. Mr Dhumal has been carrying Mr Sukh Ram along with him in public functions for the past few days.

Even if the crisis is resolved, the letter of the rebels has badly harmed the ruling BJP, as the opposition Congress has been levelling similar charges against the Dhumal government. Contents of this letter are now bound to be whipped up by the Congress in the panchayat elections and other platforms.

The Shanta men had initially not relished the formation of the government here by Mr Dhumal with the support of Mr Sukh Ram who was facing serious charges of corruption in the CBI court. The BJP had stalled proceedings of Parliament and the state Assembly for several days demanding the arrest of Mr Sukh Ram but suddenly Mr Dhumal extended a hand of friendship to him to form the government.

Many allegations levelled by the rebels in their letter were already in the minds of people, particularly the youth in the matter pertaining to the Public Service Commission and the Services Selection Board. These rebels have also alleged that recruitments were being made from one particular district. Their apparent indication was towards Hamirpur which is the home district of Mr Dhumal. Recruitments in Kangra Cooperative Bank have also remained under criticism.

The rebels were perturbed that the Dhumal camp was trying to destabilise the established leaders of the Shanta Kumar group in a systematic manner in their constituencies and had failed to carry them along. 

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