Former higher education minister Laxmikant Sharma’s release from jail after 18 months behind bars as an accused in the Vyapam exam-rigging scam has set off speculations in the state of a possible face-off with Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Sharma, who was released on Sunday, was among several high-profile people who were arrested and jailed for the alleged involvement in the scandal, which saw candidates rig recruitment examinations and entrance tests to professional medical colleges held between 2004 and 2012.
The CBI took over probe into the scam cases from a special task force (STF) formed by the state government.
Sharma chose to maintain silence over his next political move but the show of strength by his followers after his release and BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya’s support to him have set the tongues wagging in the BJP.
Words did the rounds on Saturday prior to his release that his followers had made arrangements to accord a massive welcome to him at the jail and from the jail to his hometown Sironj but the huge gathering exceeded the expectation of people.
The former minister, who left the BJP after his name surfaced in the scam, asked his supporters not to use the BJP’s flag in the procession on the 115-kilometers route.
Sharma’s statement after his release, that he had faith in the new investigating agency CBI, shows his animosity against the state government as the STF found him accused in as many as seven cases and put him behind bars.
Sharma’s camp firmly believes that STF made him an accused in one case after another to ensure that he didn’t get bail easily and remained in jail for a long time. That’s why he got bail after CBI came into the picture and took over the investigation from the STF, his supporters say.
Vijayvargiya’s support to him came at a time when almost the entire party maintained distance from Sharma and none of the leaders chose to visit the jail to see him on his release on Sunday. Vijayavargiya is known as a bete noire of Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the BJP.
A Sharma supporter said they decided to put up the show of strength on Sunday as they wanted to send a strong message to Shyamla Hills — where the CM’s official residence is situated — that their leader (Laxmikant Sharma) couldn’t be treated like Raghavji.
“But still the Sharma camp is divided into two factions. One wants him to launch an attack against the CM but the other is in favour of keeping silent,” he added.
Former finance minister Raghavji, who was arrested on charges of sodomy and had to step down from the post of finance minister, also belongs to Vidisha, the district Laxmikant Sharma hails from. Having been expelled from the party Raghavji is living a lonely life but his supporters are waiting for an opportunity for their leader’s comeback.
Talking to the Hindustan Times over phone, Sharma said he had already said what he wanted to say, on Sunday.
Sharma expressed faith in God, investigating agency and judiciary that he would get justice.