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Piece of Shimla leader's mind

Shanta Kumar comes out of Parliament on Tuesday. (PTI)

New Delhi, July 21: Shanta Kumar, the BJP's veteran leader from Himachal Pradesh, has spoken his mind in a letter to party president Amit Shah that he released in Shimla yesterday.

In his piece that he described as " mann ki baat" in a take-off on Narendra Modi's radio show by the same name, the Lok Sabha MP from Kangra said the Vyapam scam had "made all of us hang our heads in shame".

The BJP distanced itself from Kumar's comments. Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the media: "He is a senior party leader with long experience. His letter will be replied to by the BJP president. But if he is so pained, why did he not raise the corruption charges against Virbhadra Singh (the Himachal chief minister from the Congress)?"

Junior minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy added: "Shanta Kumar's comments are influenced by the Congress's misinformation campaign."

The 81-year-old demanded that the BJP set up a "Lokpal" to keep tabs on ministers and leaders. The letter said: "We came to power with a lot of pride and formed a government at the Centre. One year of the government was a year of outstanding achievements. While we were celebrating our achievements... there came an eclipse. From Rajasthan to Maharashtra, people started pointing fingers at us. Reports about Madhya Pradesh's Vyapam scam made all of us hang our heads in shame. It is very natural for people to feel highly disappointed and frustrated. The BJP workers are unable to face this."

The letter, dated July 10, was made public on the eve of the Parliament session.

Kumar and Modi are not on the best terms. In 2002, when Kumar was food minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government, he was the first to ask for Modi's resignation as Gujarat chief minister after the riots.

He had said: "If I were in his place I would have quit. What happened in Gujarat after the Godhra incident is inhuman. The burning of the train (at Godhra) must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. But what happened thereafter would shake up the conscience of any right-thinking and self-respecting person."

Kumar's statements had come days before the BJP's national executive met in Panaji. The RSS was furious with him for casting aspersions on the conduct of its first full-time "pracharak"-turned-chief minister.

He was summoned by the then BJP chief, K. Jana Krishnamurthi, and given a dressing down. Then home minister L.K. Advani warned that disciplinary action would be taken against party members who indulged in acts of indiscipline. Kumar apologised and retracted his comments in a letter to Krishnamurthi.

The animosity goes back to the nineties when Modi was a BJP general secretary in charge of Himachal. He had purged the state unit of Kumar's loyalists, promoted Prem Kumar Dhumal (who subsequently became chief minister) and packed the Himachal party organisation with Dhumal's nominees. Kumar was never able to make a comeback in Himachal politics.

 

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