The Congress opened another front against the Bharatiya Janata Party, as it raked up the row surrounding allotment of land to Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association during its rule and accused former CM PK Dhumal and his son Anurag Thakur of causing a loss of Rs 100 crore to the state exchequer.
The transfer of land smacks of "blatant constitutional impropriety, parent conflict of interest, glaring misuse of office, usurpation of public property and duping of public exchequer," Congress spokesperson Jairam Ramesh told reporters in New Delhi.
While there was no let up in the Congress attack on the government on the Lalit Modi and the Vyapam controversy, the party said land allotment in Dharmasala further exposes the "true face of BJP". "I wonder if Prime Minister Narendra Modi's promise of acting against corruption would apply retrospectively in this case," Ramesh questioned and sought action against Thakur who is a Lok Sabha MP and president of BJP's yuva morcha wing.
Thakur, who is holding the post of the Board of Control for Cricket in India secretary, was the president of Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association when the land for the stadium was given on lease.
Asked why the issue was being raised now, he said, "When we got all the papers, we prepared a dossier and hence have put up before the public".
The fresh attack from the Congress has come at a time when Parliament is stuck in a logjam.
Producing documents in support of the accusation against the Dhumal-led government, Ramesh said the land for the stadium was given on lease at a measly sum of Rs 1 per month against the state government rule of leasing out at Rs 94 lakh per annum.
"This not only led to a loss Rs 100 crore to the exchequer, the CM approved the decision in the Cabinet on May 27, 2002 undermining the notings of senior officials of the state government," he said, claiming the request for the allotment came only after the approval was given.
While the Opposition including the Congress and the Left parties have taken a line of "no resignation, no discussion", BJP leaders and ministers are making it clear that there will be no resignation and government is not going to "oblige" the Opposition.
Meanwhile, Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman wondered why the Congress was raising the issue now.
"The piece of land that he (Ramesh) is talking about is the place where India's most beautiful stadium, the HPCA cricket stadium Dharamsala was built. The land was duly leased out to the association by the state government as is the case with all the associations of the country," HPCA said.
Ramesh dismissed the contention that it was an old issue which happened in 2002 during the BJP government, saying the matter was relevant in the light of charges that has been raised against Lalit Modi, Sushma Swaraj and then Vasundhara Raje.
"The BJP has also tried to come up with allegations against the present Himachal Pradesh chief minister Vir Bhadra Singh though I don't want to get into the issue of allegations and counter allegations," he said.
In its statement, HPCA said the stadium and its facility have got worldwide fame and recognition to the state of Himachal. "The same has been borne by the testimonials of the greats of the game like Sir Vivian Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar to name a few."
Targeting Congress, it said, "They don't recognise the development of cricket in Himachal under his dynamic leadership, which is admired by everyone in the world. This land and the world class infrastructure has got Himachal Pradesh's name on the cricketing map of the world."
"We would also like to put in public domain that this land and the infrastructure created contributes a lot by way of taxes to the public exchequer.
"The HPCA would like to clarify that this land belongs to the stakeholders supporters and players of Himachal cricket and not to any individual or a family and would appeal to the political parties to refrain from dragging the future of Himachal cricket into petty politics and making baseless allegations," it said.
Image: Anurag Thakur with his father former Himachal CM PK Dhumal. Photograph: PTI