Shimla/New Delhi: The CBI and the Enforcement Directorate on Saturday raided the residences of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh in the hill state and in Delhi following the registration of a disproportionate assets case against him, officials said.
The officials, with vehicles of Chandigarh and Punjab registration numbers, reached Virbhadra Singh's private residence, Holly Lodge, located in Jakhu hills in Shimla in the morning.
"Searches were conducted at 11 locations in Himachal Pradesh and Delhi," a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officer said in New Delhi.
He said the preliminary inquiry against Virbhadra Singh and his family regarding alleged possession of disproportionate assets has been converted into a regular case under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The raids were also carried out simultaneously at the chief minister's residences in Rampur and Saharan, his native places in upper Shimla, besides Delhi.
The raid coincided with the marriage of the chief minister's daughter in Shimla.
Virbhadra Singh and his family were not at home when the team reached their residence.
The CBI had on June 18 initiated a preliminary inquiry against Virbhadra Singh and his family over allegations of corruption and acquiring disproportionate assets during his tenure as union steel minister.
However, Virbhadra Singh refuted the allegations.
Official sources told IANS that the CBI had restarted the preliminary inquiry on the basis of the income tax department order that said the agricultural income of Virbhadra Singh and his family dramatically increased in the revised return, which was an apparent attempt to justify the investments made in the purchase of insurance policies worth over Rs.6.1 crore.
Apprehending registration of the case against the chief minister, the entire cabinet on Friday expressed apprehensions that the Narendra Modi-led central government was trying to destabilise the Congress government in the state.
"We apprehend pressure tactics from the BJP-led central government to destabilise and arm-twist the democratically elected government under the leadership of Virbhadra Singh," the 11-member cabinet said in a statement, expressing fears of misuse of central investigating agencies to implicate Chief Minister Singh in false and fabricated cases.
The ministers, comprising Vidya Stokes, Kaul Singh and G.S. Bali, said the Bharatiya Janata Party was making desperate bid to divert the attention of the people by attempting to register false FIRs against the Congress leaders in the country whereas they were maintaining complete silence over the questionable conduct of its leaders.
Referring to matters of income tax related to Virbhadra Singh, the cabinet said these were pending before various income tax appellate authorities and the courts.
"The CBI after going into a detail inquiry has already submitted its preliminary inquiry report to the Delhi High Court in a sealed cover. It appears that at the instance of political leaders, another preliminary inquiry in the same case has been ordered with malafide intention," the signed statement said.
Soon after the raid in the chief minister's Shimla residence, Chief Secretary P. Mitra and Director General of Police Sanjay Kumar reached there.
The chief minister along with his wife Pratibha Singh and cabinet ministers reached his residence following the raid.
BJP leader and local legislator Suresh Bhardwaj demanded the resignation of the chief minister on moral grounds.
Beside Virbhadra Singh, his wife Pratibha Singh, former two-time MP, son Vikramaditya Singh and daughter Aparajita Kumari have also been named in the disproportionate assets case.
During his tenure as union minister, Virbhadra Singh had invested Rs.6.1 crore in life insurance policies through an LIC agent Anand Chauhan, whose house in Shimla was also raided.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the government was "using the CBI to crush political opponents".
"Is this democracy or emergency? Why no CBI probe into scams involving Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh chief ministers? Why is the PM (prime minister) eager to jail Virbhadra Singh in I-T (income tax) dispute involving meager Rs.5 crore?" Azad told reporters in Delhi.
"Countdown of the BJP government has started, as it did in 1977 when the Janata government targeted Indira Gandhi," he added.