Bhopal/New Delhi, July 7 (IANS) In a dramatic U-turn, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Tuesday announced he had recommended a CBI probe into the Vyapam recruitment scam, but the Congress insisted that he must resign for a fair investigation.
A day after Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the CBI need not probe the scandal that has reportedly claimed several lives and a day after Chouhan himself didn’t sound too enthusiastic about the CBI, the chief minister made a sudden volte-face.
Addressing the media in Bhopal, a grim looking Chouhan said he was dispatching a letter to the Madhya Pradesh High Court requesting that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) be allowed to probe the scandal.
“In a democracy, the ruler should be above suspicion,” he said. “There are questions in people’s minds. People want to know the truth. Questions in people’s minds have to be answered.
“I bow my head to people’s wishes… I am sending a request to the high court that the CBI should be allowed to investigate the case,” the veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said.
BJP sources told IANS that Chouhan’s change of mind followed some hard talking by Rajnath Singh, who convinced him that a CBI probe would help to ward off the negative image the party was gaining on account of the Vyapam and other issues.
Chouhan, however, made it clear that he had full faith in the investigation by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) done so far which he underlined was being monitored by the high court.
Until now, the chief minister had maintained that the CBI need not be brought into the picture as the Madhya Pradesh High Court was monitoring the SIT probe and there was no way his government could influence the investigation.
An unrelenting Congress stuck to its demand for Chouhan’s resignation, saying his departure was important for a neutral probe.
It said Chouhan, who has been in power in Madhya Pradesh for over a decade, was trying to “mislead” people by requesting the high court for a probe by the CBI into the scam.
“We remain firm on our demand for a Supreme Court-monitored probe,” party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said in New Delhi.
“If we want a neutral probe, then the chief minister should resign. We want to clarify that if there has to be transparency, then he should not object to an Supreme Court-monitored probe,” he added.
Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said that apart from the Vyapam recruitment scam, the probe into the deaths of people connected with the racket should also be handed over to the CBI.
Several people associated with the admission and recruitment racket in Vyapam – Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal or Professional Examination Board – have died since 2013 — in mysterious circumstances or committed suicide.
Chouhan insisted that he did not discuss his decision to go for a CBI inquiry with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, now in Central Asia.
He refuted the opposition’s “baseless allegations” against him. The Congress and the AAP have also sought the resignation of Madhya Pradesh Governor Ram Naresh Yadav for his alleged involvement in the scam.
Tuesday’s announcement follows an increasing number of deaths allegedly linked to the scandal in one way or the other.
On June 4, a television journalist covering the story in Madhya Pradesh died mysteriously. The next day, a college dean from the state helping the investigators was found dead in his hotel room in Delhi.
And on Monday, a woman police trainee recruited through Vyapam was found dead in Sagar district.
And a Madhya Pradesh police constable, who committed suicide also on Monday, was questioned by a team probing the Vyapam scam, informed sources said.
On Tuesday, union Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda said Prime Minister Modi “need not answer (queries) on silly issues” like the Vyapam scandal.
“Concerned ministers and party president have made statements… For each silly issue, asking the prime minister to answer is not fair.”