BJP leader Rajeev Bindal resigned from the post of state party chief last month on moral grounds because one of the two persons in an audio clip linked to a corruption probe on the procurement of Covid supplies by the government “had been close” to him, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur told The Indian Express.
Asserting that there was no corruption in procurement by the state government, Thakur said in an interview conducted via Skype: “Our party president resigned on moral grounds. Unhone yeh establish kiya ki jaanch ho rahi hai, jis aadmi ka zikar ho raha hai, jiski awaaz uss mein hai, woh mere nazdeek raha hai, mere saath raha hai. Unhone kaha ki mujhe resign dena hai. Unhone udahran set kiya hai.” (“Our party president resigned on moral grounds. He established that a probe was being conducted, the man being referred to, whose voice is there in it, he had been close to me, had been with me. He said that he had to submit his resignation. He has set an example.”)
Bindal, the former Assembly Speaker and five-time MLA, resigned on May 27, a week after the vigilance bureau arrested the state’s director of health services, Dr A K Gupta, who is allegedly heard discussing the handover of Rs 5 lakh with another man in the audio clip.
While submitting his resignation, Bindal did not refer to those featured in the clip but said that he and the BJP wanted the “alleged corruption to be thoroughly probed and so that there is no pressure of any kind and the probe is not influenced in any way”.
According to police, the other person in the 43-second clip, who is allegedly heard offering the money, is Prithvi Singh, a former employee of Apex Diagnostics, a medical testing centre in Solan run by Bindal’s son-in-law Dr Raj Kumar Gandhi. Singh was arrested Saturday on corruption charges.
The Chief Minister said that his government acted promptly in the matter.
“The entire episode is about a conversation between two people that went viral. I came to know of it at 10 in the morning (on May 20) and by the afternoon an FIR had been registered; by the evening the director of health services was arrested. We acted as swiftly as we could. The other man who was in the conversation was also quizzed, and later arrested,” he said.
Insisting that there was no scam, Thakur said: “As far as procurement is concerned, the PPE kits that we bought, other states bought at similar or higher rates. There is no dishonesty. But two men were talking about give and take. That is all. From the government angle, the director-health was asking for money and we acted on it. I don’t think other states act so quickly.”
Thakur said that he “took a stand” on the issue and “acted strongly”. When asked whether Bindal had resigned due to this stand, Thakur said: “His resignation has nothing to do with my stand. I took action based on the audio. The party high command spoke to him, I wasn’t asked whether his resignation should be taken or not. We just wanted to know why is DHS (Director Health Services) asking for money and from whom? It is very essential to find out the truth.”
The CM also slammed the Congress, which had demanded an inquiry in the case by a sitting High Court judge, for “doing politics” on the issue.
Following an investigation, Himachal Police told a special court late last month that Singh, 46, is currently working as a liaison officer for Punjab-based Bioaide Corporation, which supplied PPE kits worth “Rs 1 crore something” to the health directorate in “six-seven orders”.
According to police, the contents of the audio clip, which was purportedly recorded by Singh, point to a “bribery” attempt linked to these orders.
According to Bindal’s son-in-law, Singh used to work for Apex “a very long time ago”, but staff at the centre said he “has not been working with us since the time of Covid-19”.
Singh first came under the spotlight in 2007 when he contested a state election unsuccessfully on a BSP ticket from his home constituency in Simraur district’s Renuka Ji.
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