The RSS and the BJP top brass having backed him, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan appears confident that he has weathered the storm over the Vyapam scam, especially over the unnatural deaths of people linked to it.
“Voters trust me. They know I am not a murderer who will preside over killings,’’ Chouhan told The Indian Express when asked whether, irrespective of what the CBI probe finds, the outrage on news and social media would have electoral consequences for him and the ruling BJP. “An attempt was made to project Madhya Pradesh as killing fields, which is far from the truth.”
According to the 56-year-old, “the party is cent per cent sure that I am not involved and so it has supported me”.
Chouhan’s assertion comes in the wake of visits to MP by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and BJP chief Amit Shah, with whom he shared the stage in succession. On Tuesday, party leaders including Union ministers addressed a series of press conferences across MP, giving Chouhan a clean chit and projecting him as the whistleblower. Chouhan was called a committed RSS syayamsevak when he shared the stage with Bhagwat last week at a book launch,
In his third term as chief minister, Chouhan insisted that Vyapam was never a poll issue and will never be one because the people have faith in him. The BJP won the assembly elections in 2013, a few months after the scam broke in July that year, the general elections in 2014 and the byelections after that, including recent ones when he was in trouble for one more reason: an audio tape had allegedly caught him promising “better prospects” to a party leader who had been sulking after being denied a ticket.
Chouhan has repeatedly claimed that it was he who ordered a comprehensive probe after the unearthing of the PMT involving rigging of recruitment tests. He admitted the relentless media coverage had unsettled him. Reminded that he had admitted on the floor of the assembly that more than 1,000 illegal recruitments were made, he first claimed he had meant admissions of students that were cancelled and later suggested that officials may have misled him.
Asked why he did not resign or whether he had ever thought of stepping down, Chouhan avoided a direct answer. “The three days when the coverage peaked were the most difficult because there were insinuations that I was responsible for the deaths. Things got worse when my wife was dragged into it. I was left wondering whether it was (continuing in office) worth it. I was hurt. I am used to attacks against me, not my wife.’’
Reminded that people associated with him and organisations he headed had been arrested, he said the fact that they were arrested is a pointer that the probe was on the right track. “I can’t be held responsible if one person linked to an organisation I am associated with has committed an illegality.”
He admitted the allegations levelled by the Congress, and the media coverage may impact the investment MP hopes to attract.
He said he had decided to write a book on Vyapam covering the period from July 2013 to the time when the CBI probe was ordered (by the Supreme Court) but will wait for the probe to conclude. Asked whether he would still write the book if the probe should expose his own links, he said, “I am sure I will come out unscathed because I have not committed any wrong.’’
He hasn’t written a book before. He said it would present facts from a CM’s perspective on what went through his mind, “the opportunists and the opponent” because “only I know what I have gone through”. He has not thought of a title yet.