New Delhi: Rajeev Bindal, a former health minister of Himachal Pradesh and speaker of the assembly, has been asked to resign as the state BJP president over allegations of corruption.
Though Bindal says he has resigned from the position to uphold “high moral values”, sources told ThePrint that he was asked to go after an intervention from the Prime Minister’s Office. News of his resignation came when a meeting of the Himachal cabinet, led by CM Jai Ram Thakur, was underway.
A five-time MLA, Bindal had been picked to lead the state BJP by the party’s national president J.P. Nadda, who also hails from the state, in January this year. He replaced Satpal Satti.
Before that, Bindal was speaker of the assembly, but a senior BJP leader told ThePrint that he was uncomfortable in that role. “He had requested Nadda ji to have him included in the state cabinet, but the party president thought it would be better for him to lead the BJP state unit,” the leader said.
A professional doctor, Bindal had served as health minister in Prem Kumar Dhumal’s cabinet between 2007 and 2012.
The alleged scam
The director of health services, Dr A.K. Gupta, was arrested after an audio recording surfaced last week, in which he was purportedly accepting a bribe of Rs 5 lakh from an unknown man.
Gupta refers to a bank manager, and the other man says he has come with “saamaan” (stuff), after which Gupta asks “kitna laaye ho” (how much have you brought?). The man says “five lakh”, to which Gupta responds “OK, rakh do” (keep it here).
Later, speculation surfaced that the unknown man in the recording as well as Gupta are close to Bindal. The opposition Congress alleged that Gupta has links with Bindal, and the two were engaged in corruption in the health department for a long time.
Following this, sources said a few anonymous letters were sent to the PMO alleging Bindal’s involvement. The PMO, in turn, instructed the chief minister to find out the truth, which led to further suspicions of his involvement.
However, in his resignation letter to Nadda, Bindal denied allegations of any involvement in corruption.
“Fingers are being pointed at the BJP after the arrest of the former DHS, and being the president of the party, I feel that the matter should be investigated properly without any pressure, and I am submitting my resignation keeping in view high moral values,” Bindal wrote.
Recruitment scam allegations
Bindal was also accused of a scam in the recruitment of drivers and meter readers in the Solan Town Council, when he was its president in 1998.
The case was filed in 2013 by the vigilance department, while the Congress was in power.
In 2017, after the BJP returned to power, the government applied for a withdrawal of the case against Bindal. In 2019, the Himachal Pradesh High Court dismissed a petition challenging the withdrawal of the case against Bindal.