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Congress fights on street for Virbhadra

New Delhi, Jan. 1: The attempt to recycle old corruption allegations that failed to work in the 2012 Assembly elections against Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh may not prompt the Congress leadership to act hastily to demonstrate a moral stand.

Most leaders believe the renewed attack on Virbhadra is just a ploy to rationalise discredited former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s impending return to the BJP.

Although Rahul Gandhi has ordered a review of the decision to reject the probe commission’s report in the Adarsh housing scam, the Congress is not only standing by Virbhadra but has also taken the unusual step of countering the BJP on the streets.

The Youth Congress today held a major demonstration at Rajnath Singh’s residence in response to the BJP Yuva Morcha’s protest at Rahul Gandhi’s house yesterday.

A street fight between the two parties is rare. While the BJP youth wing demonstrated at Rahul’s residence to demand action against Virbhadra, the Youth Congress retaliated with greater force, raking up the BJP’s double standards on issues ranging from Yeddyurappa to the snooping controversy in Gujarat and continuance of tainted ministers in the Narendra Modi government. The Youth Congress threatened to launch an agitation in Gujarat, too.

The party’s intention to back Virbhadra became clear yesterday when communication chief Ajay Maken tweeted repeatedly to point to the BJP’s tactic of diverting attention from Yeddyurappa’s impending return and inability to answer questions about irregularities by the previous Himachal government led by Prem Kumar Dhumal.

The party also issued a “statement of fact” in which Virbhadra gave a point-wise rebuttal of the allegations raised by Arun Jaitley. Virbhadra recalled that Jaitley had made the same allegations during the Assembly elections in October-November 2012.

Virbhadra is important for the Congress as he is the only leader who ousted the BJP in his state amid the continued dominance by the rival in different parts of the country. If the Congress dumps him, it risks losing the four Lok Sabha seats in Himachal.

Some senior leaders also feel that there is the larger question of political sagacity involved as sacrificing party chief ministers at a time when the BJP is trying to consolidate its position by protecting the tainted in its ranks could look foolish.

If the Congress refuses to brazen out the charges against Virbhadra, it will be in no position to defend its Bihar alliance with Lalu Prasad who has been convicted in a fodder scam case, barred from contesting and is currently out of jail on bail.

Congress leaders concede that protecting Rahul’s clean image is important but that does not mean shedding pragmatism in political battles, which are not fought on morality alone.

They point out that Modi has not sacked even convicted ministers, refused to get entangled in the snooping row and instead has been working tirelessly to consolidate the party’s political structure and appeal.