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'Letter bomb' ticks on Himachal power hub

Shimla, Jan. 28: The political elite of Himachal Pradesh is on guard. Anytime, a bomb may explode on them ' a 'letter bomb'.

The victims of this new bomb include chief minister Virbhadra Singh, his transport and tourism minister and the chief parliamentary secretary.

The anonymous letters, generally sent to a politician to shame him, contain details of the minister's past. The contents are mostly old controversies. For instance, the letter circulated against Virbhadra carried two pictures that showed him yawning and napping in a public meeting. The caption said: 'What will be the future of the state where the CM sleeps in a public meeting'

The writers have an impeccable sense of timing. The 'letter bombs' against Virbhadra were circulated on November 10 last year in Shimla when Sonia was addressing a rally there, while transport and tourism minister G.S. Bali was hit by the 'bomb' during the Vidhan Sabha elections in 2002.

The letters are also circulated among journalists and in constituencies of the MLAs.

'We've received copies of the letters but the AICC cannot take any action. The chief minister and the Pradesh Congress Committee can take action against the guilty,' said an AICC official.

But finding the guilty is a problem. Mukesh Agnihotri, the chief parliamentary secretary and Congress MLA, who received 'letter bombs' in December, 2004, had his advocate issue legal notices to five social organisations. The contents of the letters revolved around the MLA's wealth and his days as a journalist. 'I call upon you to withdraw the allegations levelled against my client publicly and tender unconditional apology for this act,' said the legal notice issued by advocate Kul Bhushan Khajuria. They were sent to five organisations but could not be delivered as the organisations are probably imaginary.

Politicians feel the letter writers are their rival politicians, officials or old enemies. The police, so far, have failed to trace most of the writers as they use fake addresses. Only in the case of P.D. Goyal, a district and sessions court judge in Chamba, two were arrested.

On January 12, the judge received a letter with his cartoon. The sketch showed him sitting in a chamber where a lady is shown pleading: 'Judge saab insaaf chahiye (I need justice).' To this the judge replies: 'Insaaf ho to kaise, das bees lakh ka hisab dena hai (How can I' I need to give accounts of Rs 10-20 lakh).' The letter was also pasted on the walls of the court. The two accused are, however, out on bail.

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