December 23, 2013 12:40:24 am
Former BJP minister Laxmikant Sharma and mining baron Sudhir Sharma,who was once the OSD of the minister,surrendered before the Special Task Force (STF) Monday after being on the run for days.
The STF wanted them in connection with several scams related to the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB),a state government body that conducts entrance examinations for courses in government colleges and also recruitment tests for certain categories of government employees.
Laxmikant Sharma,who first became minister under former chief minister Uma Bharati and held key portfolios like mining,culture and higher education over the last 10 years,claimed he was not in Madhya Pradesh and only came to know about his alleged involvement through newspaper reports.
Claiming that he was innocent and led an unblemished life,the former minister,who lost the recent Assembly elections,surrendered in the afternoon,three days after an appeal by Bharati asking those on the run to face the law. Her name had figured too but the STF later went back on its claim and gave her a clean chit.
The former ministers name figures in two FIRs but the STF allowed him to go home after questioning him for a few hours. The minister said he would cooperate and offer himself anytime he was wanted for questioning. Sudhir Sharma was still being questioned.
Additional DG (STF) Sudhir Shahi told The Indian Express that the former minister was questioned about his alleged involvement in the scam related to appointment of contractual teachers but ruled out the talk of his immediate or future arrest. He said Sharma was being questioned about the scams related to recruitment of police sub inspectors and constables.
The Congress accused the BJP government of putting pressure on the investigating officers to give a clean chit to BJP leaders and objected to the release within hours of questioning of the former minister.
Congress spokesman J P Dhanopia alleged that the former ministers sudden surrender and quick release was part of a deal he struck with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The minister lost by a narrow margin from Sironj constituency in Vidisha district.
A former RSS functionary,Sharma had contested as Independent and got a good number of votes. The former minister was reported to have said that his defeat was part of a conspiracy and that he would expose the higher-ups in the party who hatched it. On Monday,however,the former minister denied having ever made such a statement. However,the Congress insisted that Chouhan was forced to go soft on his former ministerial colleague after he threatened to spill the beans in the event of his arrest.
The Congress also cited the visit by DGP Nandan Dubey to the house of Uma Bharati to placate her as a sign of how the probe was being manipulated by political bosses.