Virbhadra Singh dismisses graft allegations



New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Virbhadra Singh, who is at the centre of a controversy over allegedly receiving bribe money from a private steel company on Saturday dismissed the allegations and threatened legal action against those behind it even as BJP intensified its offensive demanding a probe.

Singh, a former Union Minister and five-time Chief Minister, said the charges levelled against him were part of a "motivated campaign" against him ahead of next month's Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh.

Dubbing the graft allegations as a "cheap political stunt", Singh, who is leading the Congress poll campaign in the state, said he was ready to face "any inquiry" by any agency in this regard.

Upping the ante, BJP claimed there was ample evidence against Singh for receiving money from the private steel firm and demanded an immediate probe into the matter.

"Everyday a new skeleton of corruption tumbles out of the Congress closet. The latest in this series is VBS. The then Steel Minister is suspected to have received Rs 2.28 crore illegally from a private firm... As it is an issue of quid pro quo arrangement, it needs to be investigated immediately," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.

He was referring to the seizure of diaries by the IT department from Ispat Industries in which there is an entry of a payment of Rs 2.28 crore to one VBS. BJP has alleged it refers to Virbhadra Singh.

Singh said, "This is totally false, malicious and motivated and I strongly deny this. Furthermore I am willing to face any inquiry in this regard by any agency."

He claimed that the issue was being raked up in the media by his detractors to influence the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections.

"..I challenge anyone to prove that any undue favour was accorded to ISPAT Industries, this company was not favoured by the Steel Ministry in any way, during my tenure," said Singh, who was the Union Minister for Steel between May 2009 and January 2011.

"Once the polls are over I will take legal action against all the people who are behind this false, motivated and negative campaign against me," he said.

The Opposition also raised questions over how Ispat Industries was sold just 21 days after the IT raid to Jindal Steel which is owned by a Congress MP.

"What is still worse for the country that Congress party makes a virtue out of corruption and presents a fallen guy as a hero.... Congress is synonymous with corruption," Javadekar said.

Coming to Singh's defence, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said the graft charges were aimed at tarnishing his image ahead of the assembly elections.

"This issue coming up at this particular time raises many question marks. Because I have read that the papers somebody has accessed or which has been distributed bears the date of 2010. We are entering in 2012, what were they doing in these two years?" she said.

PTI