Vyapam scam: Is Chouhan's request for CBI probe a last-minute face saving stunt?

Is Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Chouhan’s plan to request the High Court to order a CBI probe into the Vyapam scam a tactical retreat or plain capitulation?

Chandrakant Naidu July 08, 2015 07:30:06 IST
Vyapam scam: Is Chouhan's request for CBI probe a last-minute face saving stunt?

Is Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Chouhan’s plan to request the High Court to order a CBI probe into the Vyapam scam a tactical retreat or plain capitulation?

Madhya Pradesh government on Tuesday filed a request with the Madhya Pradesh High Court Jablpur for a CBI inquiry into the Vyapam

The state advocate general P Kaurav said "Yes we have filed a request in the court of the Chief Justice, AM Khanwilkar, for the CBI probe into the alleged Vyapam scam. The HC might hear our plea tomorrow."This was just a couple of hours after Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan made the announcement bowing to the mounting public pressure. The request states that the MP police's Special Task Force (STF) monitored by Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by retired HC Justice Chandresh Bhushan formed on the High Court's direction was efficiently probing into the scam. But with the recent unfortunate developments and demand from certain quarters and to clear the air, the state government pleads for the CBI probe into the case.

Till Tuesday night Chouhan was harping on lame technicalities about the matter being in the judicial domain. Union Home minister Rajnath Singh was even more emphatic in trashing the idea of a CBI probe.

What transpired overnight? Was it just a sleepless night that Chouhan had or the nightmare of further humiliation in this surcharged atmosphere?

After the Supreme Court agreed to hear the petition filed on behalf of the Congress to hand the inquiry to the CBI the state government found its options shrinking. If the Apex Court ruled in favour of the Congress, the state government would be left with no face saver. The Supreme Court has also indicated to take up the petition for the removal of the state governor Ram Naresh Yadav.

Chouhan had earlier called a press conference to reiterate his stand that once the High Court began monitoring the probe conducted by Special Task Force (STF) of the state police through it Special Investigation Team his government had nothing to with the probe. Even till Monday he wanted the SIT to just look into the television journalist’s death, not others. That would have fallen short of the opposition’s as well as the public’s expectation. Chouhan had already stretched his obstinacy to breaking point.

Vyapam scam Is Chouhans request for CBI probe a lastminute face saving stunt

Shivraj Singh Chouhan. AFP

The spate of mysterious deaths perhaps deterred him. There were four deaths in four days. A constable, Ramakant Panda, 38, was found hanging in his home near the police station in Orchha town in Tikamgarh district on Monday. Panda was questioned by authorities over alleged fraudulent recruitments made during a test conducted by Vyapam.

"I have full faith in the judiciary but recent events have caused an atmosphere of suspicion. The voices in public suggest that the investigation should be done by the CBI," said Chouhan on Tuesday. But the environment that has been created in recent days, questions us (the state government)," Chouhan told a news conference in Bhopal.

Was it the Congress that drove him to take a call or the people within the party like former chief minister Uma Bharti.

Chouhan he was not perturbed by the Congress’ rant. But he respected "public opinion" and will send a request to the high court in a letter to direct the CBI to investigate the matter.

His comments came a day after Union home minister Rajnath Singh said the government could not order a probe by the central agency till it received an order from the Supreme Court or the Madhya Pradesh high court.

On Tuesday he said “LoktantraLokLaaj se chaltahai. JanataJananaachahatihaikyahua.Loktantramein.Shasakjanatakasevakhotahai.Janatakeaageysheesh jhukanahoga. (Democracy is governed by public conduct. The ruler is a public servant and has to bow to its wishes)”

The Congress called the announcement “too late and too little”. The party spokesperson Ajoy Kumar said the chief minister is trying to divert the attention and seek public sympathy. He said 75 lakh students have been affected over the past ten years due to the government’s callous attitude while several thousand jobs have gone to undeserving persons. The government should have owned up to its crime long ago.

Questions were raised about the future of Chouhan too.

The tactical advantage the government gets is minor though. Once it sends its request to the High Court to pass the inquiry to the CBI it would pre-empt an early call from the Supreme Court which would likely wait for the High Court to decide on the state government’s request. It might delay the inevitable for some more time.

Few examination scams can match its enormity. The scam involving the Professional Examination Board or Vyapam has so far led to more than 40 deaths;swindled over Rs 3000 crore and more than 1800 arrests. Nearly 500 persons have managed to evade police dragnet through the seemingly unending investigation.

The state government has been accused of manipulating the inquiry since the scam involves politicians, senior government officers, ruling BJP’s financiers and inter-state fraudsters. Some Congress members have also been rounded up.

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