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Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal on Monday took up the issue of control over Shimlas Annandale grounds,on which his government is at loggerheads with the Army,with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He also plans to meet Defence Minister A K Antony on the issue.
In New Delhi for the chief ministers meet on internal security,Dhumal said he had asked for a probe into the press released issued by the Western Command headquarters which had alleged that the state government was attempting to destroy the meagre existing forest cover at the behest of the land mafia.
Making such a charge against the government and linking the campaign with land mafia is a direct aspersion on the chief minister,as sports organisations had submitted me a memorandum comprising 1.08 lakh signatures. I had not even forwarded the memorandum to the government. Making such accusation are unacceptable,at least by Army officers, Dhumal said.
He added: I have met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and brought the matter to his notice. I am also trying to meet the Defence Minister and seeking time from him today.
Asked about moving the court against the Army for making defamatory statements,Dhumal said: Some press statement has been given. I have said if an unconditional apology is tendered it is fine,otherwise I am filing a defamation suit in the court. The allegations are without any basis…I dont know why such a statement has been given. Now,let them face the result of giving such statements.
On Monday,the Army sought to play down its standoff with Himachal Pradesh government over control of Annandale ground by saying that there was no conflict with the state authorities on the issue. According to sources,the Army had already started inquiry into the issue of the press release and few senior officers of the Western Command had also tried to contact Dhumal in New Delhi to clarify their position.
The Annandale Ground has become a bone of contention between the BJP government and the Army after a signature campaign was started by BJP MP and Chief Ministers son Anurag Thakur favouring the handing over of the ground to the government for developing Rs 100-crore sports stadium.