Accusing BJP leaders Prem Kumar Dhumal and his son Anurag Thakur of “abusing authority” in Himachal Pradesh, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Sunday said their actions would cause Rs.100 crore loss to the exchequer. Thakur, the BJP Lok Sabha member from Hamirpur, however, termed the allegations “baseless”. Ramesh told reporters in Delhi that when Dhumal, the former Himachal chief minister, was in power in 2002, he allotted 16 acres of land in Dharamsala to the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), headed by his son Thakur.

He said the land was for building a stadium. The then Himachal Pradesh government, which should have annually earned Rs.94 lakh as rent for the land, got a mere Rs.12. Stating that the state cabinet headed by Dhumal “approved the grant of land to HPCA for 99 years but changed the lease amount to a token rate of Re.1 per month”, Ramesh said: “Dhumal and his son Thakur together have misused the public property and the office held by them.” “The lease is for 99 years. Therefore, the government will bear the loss that will be around Rs.100 crore,” he added. “Blatant constitutional impropriety, patent conflict of interest, glaring misuse of office, usurpation of public property and duping of public exchequer is writ large in their case,” Ramesh said. He said that since 2002, Dhumal and his son Thakur misused power “in the name of cricket in Himachal Pradesh”. “They have grabbed the land illegally and it is a matter of conflict of interest,” the Congress leader said, adding that the stadium was also being used for commercial purposes in gross violation of the approval given by the state cabinet. Taking potshots at the Narendra Modi government, he said: “The BJP and its leaders have become habitual offenders in committing gross constitutional impropriety, misuse of office, conflict of interest and brazen conduct, which is the very anti-thesis of constitutional democracy. Taking a jibe at Modi and other BJP leaders for “arrogant refusal” in affixing responsibility of union minister Sushma Swaraj, and chief ministers Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Ramesh asked: “Will he (Modi) take action now?” Thakur, who was in Bihar, later said there was no truth in the Congress party’s allegations against him and his father Dhumal. “This is a baseless allegation levelled against me and my father,” Thakur said, adding that he will reply to the allegations soon. BJP leader and union minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the Congress was running out of issues. “This matter is already in the court, no one from the Congress appears there (in court). They should if they are so serious about this,” she said.”The fact is that the Congress just wants press coverage and is running out of issues.”

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