New Delhi, Jun 26: Union Minister Virbhadra Singh resigned today in the wake of a Himachal Pradesh court framing corruption charges against him, the third minister in UPA-II to step down on similar grounds.
A five-time Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, 78-year-old Singh, the Union Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his Race Course Road residence before announcing his resignation.
“The President of India, as advised by the PrimeMinister, has accepted the resignation of Virbhadra Singh from the Union Council of Ministers, with immediate effect,” Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson said.
Science and Tchnology Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has been given additional charge of the MSME ministry. A veteran Congress leader, Singh said he has resigned on moral grounds. “No one asked me to quit. This my moral duty as I did not want to embarrass my party, PM or government,” he told reporters.
Singh's decision came a day after the Himachal court framed charges of corruption and criminal misconduct against him and his wife Pratibha Singh in a 23-year-old case, saying there was sufficient evidence to proceed against them. The minister, who had met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi last evening, dismissed as “totally fabricated” the allegations against him.
He also sought to turn it into a political battle against the ruling BJP ahead of the Assembly elections in the state later this year.
Accusing the Prem Kumar Dhumal government of levelling “concocted” against him, Singh trained his guns at the Chief Minister, describing him as the “most corrupt and biggest lier in Himachal Pradesh”.
“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,” he said.
Singh said his resignation should not be seen as an admission of guilt as he was going to fight the case to the logical end.