Bhopal: Many senior BJP and RSS functionaries in the country find their heartbeats linked to the fate of former minister Laxmikant Sharma, once a key aide to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Sharma, now in the custody of the special task force (STF) for his pivotal role in the Professional Examination Board scam, is being treated with kid gloves while over 150 students and young professionals apprehended through a couple of days’ swoop were treated like hard core criminals. The detainees include many girls.
Sharma is expected to confront his former aide OP Shukla, who spilled the beans on Sharma’s omissions and commissions. Shukla’s confessions include details of how the former overlooked merit to promote acolyte Pankaj Trivedi as controller of PEB examinations. Sharma has alleged that three bureaucrats have framed him at the instance of a senior BJP leader. He has not elaborated. Bureaucrats are closely watching Sharma’s interrogation as more skeletons might tumble out.
The Jabalpur high court had warned it would hand the case to the CBI if STF continues to soft-pedal it. Chouhan is facing the heat after Sharma’s arrest spurred the proceedings. Sharma headed the higher education ministry during the vital period covering the scam. He quit the party on his arrest. The BJP accepted his resignation through a terse SMS.
Though Laxmikant Sharma was named among the core culprits over six months ago, the STF avoided arresting him. With his proximity to senior RSS and BJP members, Sharma wielded immense power. Many party bigwigs ate out of his hand. He even nurtured chief ministerial ambitions.
There have been more than 400 arrests in the scam worth several thousand crore rupees that ruined the careers of thousands of students jobs-seekers. Among the key accused arrested earlier for masterminding the scam were Jagdish Sagar, Sanjeev Shilpkaar and Deepak Yadav who topped the Pre-PG examination in 2004, 2006 and 2009 after taking many more than stipulated five years to complete their MBBS course. They then teamed up to play the biggest education fraud in the country with the help of system analyst Nitin Mahindra who may have been fudging results even before.
Chouhan is avoiding a CBI inquiry into the scandal despite its enormity apparently due to involvement of party and RSS leaders. Chouhan accepted that the scam was a blot on the BJP rule as at least 1,000 persons got government jobs through fraudulent means. Mining baron Sudhir Sharma, another key accused and high profile financier of the BJP, has been absconding arrest and the STF has announced a reward of Rs 5,000 on his head.
Sharma’s friends say he may have quit the BJP, but that does not necessarily mean he has snapped ties with the RSS. The Congress has accused that Suresh Soni, the key RSS functionary has planted people in the higher education department. He also has a finger in the PES pie also.
Leader of the opposition Satyadev Katare wants the Supreme Court to monitor STF investigation as Chouhan’s former personal assistant Prem Prasad is also named as an accused. "The Congress accuses Chouhan of helping Prasad in hiding. The STF cannot conduct impartial inquiry till Chouhan remains on the post,” says Katare.
“Laxmikant Sharma‘s surrender was planned to save big fish. It is not an arrest,” says Katare. He has also demanded security to Laxmikant Sharma, Pankaj Trivedi, Nitin Mahindra, Ajay Shankar Mehta and Sudhir Sharma who had vital information regarding the scam.
PCC chief Arun Yadav sees the nexus of three siblings in masterminding the scam. He pointed to Rajnath Singh’s former political advisor and party spokesman Dr Sudhanshu Trivedi who pulled the strings to get his brother Pankaj Trivedi appointed as PEB examination controller. Yadav and Katare say the government ignored all norms in taking Dr Trivedi on deputation from a college in Uttar Pradesh, to Bhopal’s Rajiv Gandhi Prodyogiki Vishwavidyalaya (RGPV), and subsequently posting him as liaison officer in Delhi’s MP Bhavan.
The third sibling, Piyush Trivedi, the vice-chancellor of Rajiv Gandhi Proudyogiki Vishwavidyalaya (RGPV) is also facing investigations from the Lokayukta Special Police Establishment (SPE) for unaccounted wealth.
Updated Date: Jun 25, 2014 13:21 PM