Friday, Oct 24, 2014

Exam scam tests Chouhan

With former minister Laxmikant Sharma, recently arrested.File With former minister Laxmikant Sharma, recently arrested. File
Written by Milind Ghatwai | Bhopal | Posted: June 19, 2014 12:56 am | Updated: June 19, 2014 11:14 am

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan appears more and more vulnerable as Madhya Pradesh’s examination and recruitment scam gets wider and wider in scope. And that is not just because the opposition has been targeting him. The MP High Court is monitoring how his police are probing the scam. His own political bosses are closely following the investigations, bringing into play rivalries in the BJP. So is the RSS, which is so keen to clear its name that it is said to have okayed the arrest of a former minister considered its blue-eyed boy and known to have been close to Chouhan.

More than 300 arrests have been made in the year since the Indore police unearthed the scam, including that of former minister Laxmikant Sharma who flaunted his RSS links and was very close to Chouhan in his first term as chief minister. The FIR names other BJP and RSS leaders as well as a few officials in the Chief Minister’s Office.

At a time when he was celebrating the victories in the assembly and general elections, what has given Chouhan another cause for worry is the rivalries within the BJP. He is considered close to L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj, both part of the old BJP power centre rather than the new one around PM Narendra Modi.

Besides, a theory doing the rounds is that the RSS itself cleared the former minister’s arrest because it felt its name was being used to stall the probe. The probe has brought up the names of several RSS activists, including in connection with the government appointment, allegedly illegal, of an aide of a former sarsanghchalak. RSS member Dr Ajay Shankar Mehta, former vice-chairman of Jan Abhiyan Parishad that works as a bridge between NGOs and the state government, has been arrested, while mining businessman Sudhir Sharma, who began as a teacher in an RSS-school, is on the run.

Though the high court in April threw out a slew of petitions seeking a CBI probe, it decided suo motu to monitor the ongoing investigation by the Special Task Force, a state police agency. The former minister was arrested Sunday and the STF began a crackdown on students across the state Wednesday because it has to submit a status report soon.

Until recently, Chouhan used to credit the STF with doing an excellent job. Now, he prefers not to comment about it in public. “The law will take its course,’’ is Chouhan’s new refrain to queries about the scam.

Chouhan had a tough time last December when STF officials leaked his rival Uma Bharti’s name in the scam, before going on to give her a clean chit. This gave rise to conspiracy theories. A fuming Bharti, then an MLA from Uttar Pradesh, called it a plot to damage her. Now, even Laxmikant Sharma’s supporters have pointed an accusing finger at Chouhan, who continued…

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