BJP bowls out Himachal government ahead of friendly match

    By Vishal Gulati, IANS,

    Shimla: The Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government in Himachal Pradesh has found itself bowled out by the opposition BJP even without playing a cricket match.

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    For, opposition legislators have refused to play the friendly between the Chief Minister’s XI and the Governor’s XI, charging the government with indulging in a “game of politics”.

    “Since the government is vindictive against the HPCA, there is no justification in representing the chief minister team,” state BJP president Satpal Satti told IANS.

    He said the government has registered frivolous cases against the HPCA (Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association) led by BJP MP Anurag Thakur.

    The match, played annually, is scheduled for Sunday in Shimla.

    The BJP legislators who refused to play the match were former minister Jairam Thakur, two-time legislator Rajiv Sejal and first timers Hans Raj, Vinod Kumar and Baldev Tomar.

    “Our friends should rise above the party lines and join us for a friendly match,” Mukesh Agnihotri, vice captain of chief minister’s team, said.

    He said cases were registered against the HPCA as there were numerous complaints against its functioning.

    “Various agencies are looking into the complaints against the HPCA. We have no interference in their working,” said Industries Minister Agnihotri.

    HPCA president Thakur was grilled for over two hours Nov 11 by the state Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau for the first time over affairs of the association.

    Official sources said the manner in which the HPCA, initially registered as an association under the Societies Act, got itself converted into a company without government approval raised doubts about its functioning.

    Soon after questioning, Thakur, also joint secretary in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), told reporters that he provided all the information sought by the sleuths.

    Arun Dhumal, Thakur’s younger brother who is the HPCA vice president, said the government should focus on development of the state rather than on cricket.

    “The government is misleading the public by saying that the land was allotted to the HPCA for the residential complex by the previous government at an annual lease of Re.1. Actually, it’s Rs.27 lakh per annum,” he told IANS.

    The HPCA’s current assets are valued at Rs.150 crore, he said. “The HPCA’s annual budget was just Rs.20 lakh when Anurag Thakur got elected for the first time in 2000. In this fiscal, it’s Rs.26 crore.”

    A case of cheating and misappropriation was registered against the HPCA in August over alleged wrong-doing in allotment of land, which according to revenue records was common village land, to the sports association for constructing a residential complex for the players near its international stadium in Dharamsala.

    The land was allotted when the BJP government headed by Prem Kumar Dhumal was in power. Dhumal is Thakur’s father.

    The HPCA has been accused of encroaching on 720 sq m land of the state sports and youth services department. The encroached portion is located near the main gate of the Dharamsala stadium.

    (Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])