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Union Congress Minister Virbhadra Singh Resigns Amid Corruption Charges

NEW DELHI – Union minister Virbhadra Singh resigned from the Cabinet on Tuesday, a day after a Himachal Pradesh court slapped corruption charges on him.

Singh’s resignation came just when Congress was gearing up for elections in his BJP-ruled home state, a must-win battle for the party to regain momentum after the recent decimation in five states, including UP, had punctured its hopes.

After driving to PM Manmohan Singh to tender his resignation, Singh said he was innocent and the charges in the 23-year-old case would be proved false. Sources said Singh resigned of his own volition because he said he was confident of getting relief from higher courts.

While Singh’s case is sure to add to the opposition campaign against UPA, with the Anna Hazare camp claiming vindication, Congress sources felt his resignation had implications for in-house politics in the run-up to December polls.

The graft charge, followed by the BJP offensive, would make it a personal battle for Singh to defeat the rival. There were doubts that Singh may not put in a wholehearted effort till he was assured of the CM’s post.

Singh, after resigning, trained his guns on CM Prem Kumar Dhumal and called him the “most corrupt and biggest liar in Himachal”.

He said, “In the last 50 years, I have handled many portfolios like tourism and steel and during my tenure, nobody has questioned my integrity or that of my family.”

The attack on BJP, as well as his remark that he resigned because he did not want to embarrass the party or the PM, was seen by Congress leaders as “reassuring”.

A five-term CM, Singh is seen to be apprehensive that there are attempts to sideline him in favour of his detractor and Union commerce minister Anand Sharma.

Since Singh is the only mass leader from Congress in the state, the one-upmanship could hurt the party which is desperately eyeing victory. The recent decision to appoint Sharma as chairman of the state manifesto committee, with Singh a member under him, did not help matters.

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