After consistently stonewalling calls for an independent probe, the Madhya Pradesh government today requested the High Court to hand over the investigation into the Vyapam admission tests scam to the CBI. Under attack, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan claimed he wanted to counter what he called the “falsehood” surrounding the recent deaths linked to the controversy.
“In the last two days, an atmosphere of falsehood has been created that would have eventually affected the well-being of the state, which has emerged as the best performing one in the last decade. A perception was being created that the deaths (of people linked to the scam) were suspicious,” Chouhan told The Indian Express.
“I felt that a wrong impression was being created which may not be corrected by merely saying that a fair investigation is being conducted. In a democracy, perception matters a lot and the conduct of the ruler, who is actually the servant of the public, must be above any criticism or questions. This is necessary if he has to work with full authority. That is why I came to the conclusion that the questions that have cropped up require a CBI probe,” he said.
Barely two days ago, however, Chouhan had said — after the death of an Aaj Tak reporter who was reporting on the scam — that there was no need to call in the central agency to probe the case.
The MP High Court, which had set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the scam, had earlier ruled out the need to get the CBI involved.
Yesterday, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said that he wasn’t averse to a CBI probe if the court intervened and asked for it. Senior party leader from Madhya Pradesh and Chouhan’s predecessor Uma Bharti said she was “scared” by the deaths of those linked to the scam.
However, even as Chouhan said today that only a CBI probe could clear “the feeling… that there was something suspicious” about the recent deaths, any new probe might pose fresh problems for the CM who is just months away from completing 10 years in office.
The Congress has already said that he must quit for any independent investigation to succeed but more significantly, has accused the CM’s wife Sadhna Singh of recommending candidates for “illegal” selection to government jobs.
Chouhan had already sacked his private assistant Prem Prasad for allegedly procuring a medical college seat for his daughter and for having “recommended” other candidates.
Asked to respond to these allegations, however, Chouhan slammed the Congress for dragging those close to him into the controversy, particularly his wife.
“It is all courtesy discredited Congress leaders, who have lost election after election. Since they can’t win elections, they are dragging my wife in. This is not the first time they have leveled baseless allegations against her. But each allegation has proved to be false. The public is not unaware. We will give them (Congress) a proper reply,” he said.
Asked about the suggestion that the three senior BJP leaders who are not seen as being part of the Narendra Modi camp — External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan CM Vasundhare Raje and himself — were suddenly mired in major controversies, Chouhan replied with an emphatic “No”.
”Even to think like this is sacrilege for me. We have full faith in the leadership of our Prime Minister Narendra Modiji, who has emerged as a global leader. Our national (party) president Amit Shah is so worried about me that we have been talking almost on a daily basis. They don’t even want a perception to gain ground that there’s something wrong in the state. That is why we are proud of them,” he added.
Asked why Bharti appeared to be upset with him, Chouhan said, “Uma Bhartiji is my sister and I have deep respect for her. She has a lot of affection for me. In a democracy, everyone has the right to speak openly and she has always been known to speak her mind.”
Meanwhile, MP Additional Advocate General P K Kauravs told The Indian Express that the government’s plea for a CBI probe would be taken up by the HC division bench, comprising Chief Justice A K Khanvilkar and Justice Alok Aradhe, which is monitoring the probe.
The Supreme Court had decided on Monday to hear a bunch of petitions related to the Vyapam scam on July 9.
Incidentally, the Chouhan government’s request for a CBI probe comes exactly two years after the first arrests were made in the scam in Indore on July 7, 2013.