The ‘health scam’ has charged political environs in Himachal Pradesh amid COVID-19 crisis, with opposition Congress taking up the issue head-on against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.
Visibly, the ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is volte-face in HP over the whole episode since State BJP Chief and fine-time MLA, Rajeev Bindal resigned from the post on 27 May, a week after Director Health Services, Ajay Gupta was arrested over an audio-clip allegedly carrying conversation indicating bribe related to some purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits.
Bindal’s name was allegedly being dragged indirectly into the episode, following which he resigned, citing ‘high moral grounds’ to pave the way for a fair inquiry.
The sudden ‘political fall’ surprised many, especially as Bindal, who had left his post of Speaker, HP Assembly to become State BJP Chief with the backing of national BJP President, JP Nadda in January this year, was seen as a strong leader.
Chief Minister, Jai Ram Thakur, who also holds the health portfolio (since February this year), has, however, denied irregularities in purchases and has termed the swift action by the government in the arrest of Director, Health by Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau within a day after the audio clip allegedly carrying conversation of bribe surfaced, as its resolve for zero tolerance for corruption.
“I never asked Rajeev Bindal to resign. When he saw the media and other people talking about him as one person in conversation is close to him, he resigned on moral grounds to pave the way for vigilance inquiry,” the CM shrewdly reacted, when asked about Bindal’s resignation at a press conference last week.
The whole issue has generated political heat in Himachal Pradesh in COVID-19 crisis when the entire attention of the government, the ruling party and the opposition Congress should solely have been towards the pandemic.
The issue of ‘health scam’ has come handy for Congress party at the critical time and the party has made it snowball across the state by questioning the BJP government on all the purchases in the health department during the present regime.
Leader of Opposition, Mukesh Agnihotri, State Congress President, Kuldeep Rathore and other Congress leaders have unequivocally pressed the need for a probe by sitting High Court judge into the ‘scam’, given the seriousness of the matter and have demanded a ‘white paper’ on the health department purchases in two and a half years.
The opposition party even tried to make it as an issue against the Chief Minister seeking his resignation on moral grounds for fair probe as he is holding the portfolio of health, and the Home department (which is also under him) is inquiring into the health scam.
The health department has been in the thick of controversy since last year when a letter had gone viral on social media against various purchases. However, at that time, the state government had not ordered an inquiry into it.
All said and done, while the state government has been left to defend itself on all the issues at the crucial time with BJP, which could have been its back now, yet to take the call on the new state party President in Himachal. The Congress party has found COVID-19 crisis an opportune time to gear up its political fight in the state, after the humiliating defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.