The Congress demanded on Wednesday the resignation of Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan for allegedly receiving “payments” from the prime accused in the Vyapam scam, stepping up attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government at the Centre over the high-profile examination scandal involving politicians, bureaucrats and racketeers. The minister, however, denied any wrongdoing on his part.
“Dharmendra Pradhan should step down, and if he doesn't, the Prime Minster should ask him to resign immediately,” said Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, after a 2013 income tax report purportedly showed that the travel arrangements of Pradhan were paid for by mining baron Sudhir Sharma, who has been arrested in connection with the Vyapam scandal.
The report was based on diaries seized in several raids, and names politicians including senior BJP leader Prabhat Jha, his two sons, RSS joint general secretary Suresh Soni, BJP MP Anil Dave and Congress legislator Veer Singh Bhuria.
Reacting to the allegations, Pradhan denied receiving any payments from Sharma, saying he never took any ticket from any individual and his travel was always paid for by his party.
"I vehemently deny taking any favours or tickets from any individual...the party (BJP) usually booked my tickets," he said.
"I want to ask them (Congress leaders) who bears cost of their press conferences? Naturally, the Congress party. And so was it in my case."
Pradhan added he did know Sharma but had never asked him for tickets to travel to Bhopal in May 2010 for a party activity.
Watch: The A to Z of the Vyapam scam
Meanwhile, the Congress reiterated its demand for Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s resignation to allow a “fair, independent and impartial” probe into the scam that, it said, has claimed 49 lives till now.
Waving documents, Surjewala said the report from a 2011 raid at Sharma's premises allegedly showed that he “used money generated” through the recruitment scam. The Congress also alleged that CM Chouhan has protected the officials guilty of “gigantic fraud” and corruption.
More than 2,000 people have been arrested in connection with the scam since it came to light in 2013. Many politicians, bureaucrats and middlemen are said to be involved in the scam which, according to police, involved scamsters employing imposters to write tests conducted by the MPPEB for admission to professional courses and recruitment in government jobs. The scamsters also supplied forged answer sheets by bribing officials between 2012 and 2013.
(With PTI inputs)