With skeletons tumbling out of education minister Sikander Singh Maluka's cabinet, and the opposition grabbing the opportunity to nail the ruling SAD-BJP alliance, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Sunday grilled Maluka, who unsuccessfully tried to deflect the matter towards the bureaucracy.
Maluka, who later in the evening said he was ready for "any probe ordered by the CM", is in the line of fire over issuing parallel tendering for books and lab kits to divert central grants into the pockets of firms "nominated" by a questionable three-member panel.
As the scams have provided ammunition to the Congress, which was demoralised after a massive defeat in panchayat body polls, the CM reportedly was upset as the SAD-BJP has been cornering the central Congress-led UPA regime over the matter of corruption itself.
Sources said that as Badal talked tough, Maluka tried to turn the tirade towards department officials by saying that all the files under question were with the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan office, and he had nothing to do with the cases. "Then hold a press conference and brief the media about your position," the CM is said to have told the minister. On the aside, staff was directed by the CM to clarify the picture to him before evening.
Since the CMO staff had already called for the files to file an internal report, they found that the files were not with the SSA office but lying at the office of the SAS Nagar district education officer, Vinod Kumar. Vinod happens to be one of three members of all committees constituted by Maluka to tender and "nominate" firms that had led to the scams.
The CM told Maluka about the "discovery", which further put him on the backfoot. Sources said an IAS officer attached with the MC also underlined how secretaries have frequently been changed in the education department since Maluka took over.
"The CM has made up his mind to order an independent inquiry. The announcement can now come anytime, as restoring the image of the SAD-BJP is the utmost priority of the government before Lok Sabha elections. Because, corruption remains the main issue," said an officer refusing to be quoted in the "sensitive situation".
Hence later, as directed by the CM, Maluka held a press conference and announced he was ready for probe. But he ducked questions.