Union minister for law and justice DV Sadananda Gowda on Tuesday created a storm by calling the Vyapam scam a "silly issue on which the Prime Minister need not answer, but retracted it hours later saying he was referring to the Lalit Modi row.
“Certain issues which are so simple issues, so silly issues that they need not be answered by the Prime Minister,” he first said in Udaipur when reporters asked him about Prime minister Narendra Modi’s silence on a series of deaths related to the scam.
However, six hours later, he summoned another press conference to say he was talking about the Lalit Modi case and not the Vyapam case. “I said that the PM need not answer simple and silly allegations made by the Congress. My statement had no connection with the Vyapam case,” he clarified.Incidentally, there was no mention about former IPL chief Lalit Modi in the press conference.
The minister spoke to reporters at BJP office in Udaipur around 9.30am, hours before the Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced that his government would write to the high court for a CBI probe into the Vyapam scam.
When reporters asked him why the PM was silent on Vyapam deaths, the law minister said, “For each and every silly issue the Prime Minister has to answer, it is not the fact. If the issue is so serious, everybody should request the PM to answer, but these are simple issues already answered by my senior leaders including my party president.”
More than 2,000 people have been arrested and around 40 people have died mysteriously in connection with Madhya Pradesh's examination and recruitment scandal widely known as Vyapam scam.
Gowda's remark came after Union home minister Rajnath Singh said: "Our Opposition is making an issue out of a non-issue. The matter should not be politicised."
Earlier, a string of statements by Madhya Pradesh ministers were perceived as insensitive and irresponsible, adding to the woes of a government already on the back foot in the raging controversy.
State minister Kailash Vijayvargiya brusquely dismissed queries about the death of journalist Akshay Singh, who was reporting on the scam and died in the middle of an interview on Saturday.
"Patrakar vatrakar kya hota hai … humse bada hai patrakar kya?" (What journalist are you talking about? Is there any one bigger than me?)," he said, cutting short a question by a reporter in Bhopal.
He also told a news agency in Bengaluru that Singh died of a heart attack, though the post-mortem report was awaited in the case.
But the senior minister was on damage control mode on Monday, saying he was quoted out of context and offered condolences to Singh's family.
The scam that involved organised rackets rig exams conducted by the MP public examination board (PEB) has seen over 2,000 arrests and the death of 40 people, including whistleblowers, accused and witnesses. The scam, known as the Vyapam scandal after the board's Hindi acronym, is also the biggest crisis to dog CM Chouhan's tenure and has seen the arrest of several bureaucrats and middlemen.
Last week, when scam accused Narendra Singh Tomar died in an Indore hospital after being taken ill, state home minister Babulal Gaur adopted a philosophical approach and said, "Jo ayaa hai who jayega hi chahe jail ye ya rail me (whoever is born has to die, whether in jail or train) while dismissing all the deaths as natural.
Higher education minister Uma Shankar Gupta also reportedly lost his cool at a press conference in Guna on Sunday when asked a question related to the scandal. He asked the journalist if he had some hearing problem (Behre ho kya?).