Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Wednesday said the BJP was behind him as he faced a political storm following a spate of mysterious deaths of people connected to a multi-crore scam that has sullied his image.
The 56-year-old leader was in Delhi a day after giving in to mounting public pressure and asking for a CBI probe into the Vyapam exam fraud.
“BJP president Amit Shah told me the party stands by me. I have no reason to worry,” he told HT, effectively burying rumours of internal party fissures ignited by Union minister Uma Bharti’s purported remarks about the state scuttling the probe.
“Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the person who started the probe, has been put in the dock. The image of the state has been ruined, the image is that people here are being murdered,” he told HT in Bhopal.
The Supreme Court will hear a batch of petitions on Thursday calling for a court-monitored CBI probe into the exam-rigging scandal. The Madhya Pradesh high court deferred a similar state government plea on Wednesday to July 20.
“We will pray in Supreme Court that there be a CBI investigation. If and when we have to go to the SC, this will be the government stand,” the CM said. The apex court is also hearing a petition asking for the removal of MP governor Ram Naresh Yadav, an accused in the case.
Asked why Shah was silent on the Vyapam scam when the BJP had defended Vasundhara Raje in the controversy involving ex-IPL boss Lalit Modi, Chouhan said the party had supported the Rajasthan CM publicly as personal allegations had been made against her. “The Vyapam controversy is known to the party leadership and there was no need for Shah or anybody to come out and speak every time it resurfaced,” he said.
“Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi never discussed it with me. I meet him at least twice every month but he never took up the matter with me,” Chouhan said.
The probe into one of India’s biggest corruption scandals has gotten murkier with at least 40 witnesses and accused dying in the past three years as whistleblowers allege a deliberate ploy to eliminate evidence and shield top ministers and bureaucrats.
But Chouhan denied all accusations, saying the trial by media only hurt the economic prospects of a state outpacing the national growth rate.
Opposition parties have been gunning for Chouhan, who said he accepted a CBI probe because of a perception created outside the state that his government was attempting a cover-up.
“Everywhere else where you have had cases of rigged medical exams, students have been caught and after some time let off on bail. But we are going to the root of this case and everywhere we found evidence, the STF acted,” he told HT.
“You go around the state, you think someone will get you killed? It’s only a matter of time, the truth can never be hidden.”
The CM said he always had the blessings of BJP veterans AB Vajpayee and LK Advani and continued to enjoy the confidence of Modi and Shah. “I have pride in my party, the party is behind me. There is no question of no support,” he said.
The CM was scheduled to return to Bhopal after a meeting at the external affairs ministry, but stayed back and will take an early morning flight.