It is nearly a year since the multi-layered MPPEB scam came to light in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh. But it’s only when fingers were pointed at top functionaries of the RSS that the scam broke the state barrier and caught the nation’s eye, and in the process invoked the wrath of the ruling party’s ideological fountainhead, besides exposing unease in a Parivar that usually prides in its unity. The political establishment and the police have, however, given a clean chit to the RSS functionaries.
Among the key events linking the RSS’s name to the scam was the arrest of Mihir Kumar Chaudhary, an aide of late sarsanghchalak K Sudarshan who chose to make Bhopal his home after retirement. Chaudhary, 25, who hails from Bihar, was released on bail after spending 10 days in jail in January this year. A statement apparently recorded in November 2013 by the Special Task Force, a wing of the Madhya Pradesh police, went into circulation nearly seven months later. Chaudhary allegedly said he had sought the late RSS chief’s help to clear a recruitment examination and eventually landed a job because then technical education minister Laxmikant Sharma had ensured it.
There is said to have been no exchange of money because MPPEB officials jailed for allegedly manipulating OMR sheets in the Bhopal-based headquarters have reportedly confessed that they did not charge candidates recommended by the minister. Chaudhary reportedly also claimed he was recommended as RSS joint general secretary Suresh Soni’s man.
The police have denied involvement of Sudarshan or Soni, claiming no such evidence was collected from the hard disk seized from MPPEB headquarters. “Reports to this effect are false and misleading,’’ the police PRO said in a statement issued June 28. The police pointed out that Sudarshan died in September 2012, weeks before the examination was held and the result announced.
Soni called allegations about him a conspiracy but chose not to elaborate on who was behind it.
The Congress, meanwhile, released a set of alleged SMS exchanges among the alleged perpetrators of the scam including mining baron Sudhir Sharma, now on the run. Congress spokesman K K Mishra alleged that a “Soniji” referred to in the text messages was none other than Suresh Soni.
Incidentally, income tax investigations had claimed that diaries seized from the mining baron’s home in 2012 contained details of expenditure incurred on air travel by Soni and BJP leaders. While Soni never commented on the income tax report, he trashed talk of his involvement in the scam.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, meanwhile, said, “The law will take its own course. We don’t need to worry.”
One of the various conspiracy theories being discussed in political circles is that the names of RSS leaders were being mentioned to divert attention from the alleged involvement of top BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh. The state leaders, the theory goes, were trying to save Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan whose chair was at stake.
“The attention that the scam has got recently at the national level would not have been possible without a section of our own party men orchestrating it from Delhi,” a BJP spokesman said.
Having crossed eight years in office, Chouhan has made a few enemies in the state BJP. Chouhan said the Congress was targeting his family and the RSS to divert attention from the probe.When Bhagwat attended an RSS meet at Mohankheda near Dhar, Chouhan rushed to placate the RSS chief.
When former vice-chairman of MP Jan Abhiyan Parishad (MPJAP) Dr Ajay Shankar Mehta, who has a strong RSS background, was arrested by the STF in May this year, not many in the BJP defended him in public. As vice-chairman of MPJAP whose ex-officio chairman is the chief minister, Mehta was a bridge between the government and NGOs, many of them ideologically inclined to the Sangh Parivar.
Mehta’s arrest itself followed criticism that the STF was not arresting people with clout because he was among those questioned earlier but let off. Sudhir Sharma and Laxmikant Sharma, the latter once a favourite with the RSS, too had been let off earlier.
The former minister’s arrest in mid-June changed the dynamics of politics. Until then it was claimed that the BJP government was using the name of the RSS to go slow on the probe, and many believe this is what prompted the RSS to clear the arrest.
“People associated with the RSS formed a nexus to commercially exploit educational and scientific institutes in MP in the last few years,” alleged RTI activist Ajay Dubey. He claimed the mining baron was the link between the government and the RSS, which is why the political leadership is not keen on arresting him.