Former BJP minister Laxmikant Sharma was arrested by the Special Task Force (STF) on Sunday for his role in the alleged illegal recruitment of contractual teachers in government schools.
Sharma was a powerful minister and held the technical education, culture and mining portfolios between 2003 and 2013 before losing the Assembly elections in November last year.
The STF had questioned him twice in the past but let him go claiming it did not have sufficient evidence. On Sunday, a team of STF officials questioned the BJP leader at his home before taking him to the STF office in the afternoon.
More than 250 persons, including officials of Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board, brokers, politicians, students and parents, have been arrested by the STF so far in the examination and recruitment scam that came to light last year.
The agency has already arrested Sharma’s OSD but had delayed the former minister’s arrest, an action that was slammed by the Congress.
The agency had filed two separate FIRs against Sharma for his role in recruitment of contractual teachers whose names he had recommended to MPPEB officials who manipulated OMR sheets to ensure they cleared the examination.
STF (AIG) Ashish Khare said Sharma would be produced before a court on Monday. The agency is investigating irregularities in at least 10 examinations, including the pre-medical test (PMT).
The agency had seized several documents and computer hard discs that showed how names recommended by powerful persons like Sharma besides bureaucrats and those who operated
syndicates, cleared the examinations conducted by MPPEB.
The former minister had first surrendered in December last year claiming he was innocent and that he came to know of his involvement only through newspapers. He was questioned by the STF one more time.
The BJP leader’s arrest comes a day after the agency declared a reward of Rs 5,000 on information about mining baron Sudhir Sharma. The latter was also the minister’s OSD when he held the mining portfolio.
The former minister and Sudhir Sharma had surrendered together but the agency had not arrested either of them. The mining baron was issued several notices but he did not appear before the agency announced a cash award.
The Congress, however, alleged that the delayed arrest was an attempt to save the CM’s chair. Congress state chief Arun Yadav and Leader of Opposition Satyadev Katare reiterated the demand for a CBI probe into the mega scam.
The Opposition leaders said MPPEB has conducted as many as 168 examinations in last seven years. Yadav and Katare claimed that involvement of CMO had been established and further alleged that the name of a person with surname ‘Soni’ had also figured.