The BJP saw a flurry of activity behind the scenes on Wednesday after Shanta Kumar's remarks that the Vyapam scam shamed its leadership, triggered a retaliatory letter from Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the first time in his career that the Madhya Pradesh CM publicly hit out at a party colleague.
Though the CM expressed annoyance at Shanta Kumar going public with his grievance, Chouhan’s own letter was also released to the media. The multi-crore recruitment scam that has accounted for 40 deaths appears to have spelled discord in the ruling party, political observers say.
Party leaders said it was uncharacteristic of Chouhan to use harsh language against a colleague. He might have done so on the instructions of seniors in Delhi yet it showed a sign of desperation to shield himself in the face of a barrage of criticism over the scam, a leader said, not wishing to be named.
State BJP vice-president Vijesh Lunawat justified Chouhan’s stance. “What the CM did was an attempt to dispel confusion in the mind of any leader caused by the Congress’s false propaganda. That’s why he gave all the reports to the veteran leader along with the letter to study. In doing so, the CM maintained his dignity and humility and didn’t cross the line of decency,” Lunawat said.
Chouhan called into question Shanta Kumar's own adherence to ethics, saying, “It will not be an exaggeration if this is called an example of difference between preaching and practice.”
The CM said expressing concern over the Opposition’s charges against one's own party leaders without gathering information was unexpected and unwarranted. If Shanta Kumar had problems in gathering factual information about other states, he should have launched a campaign against corruption during the Congress regime in Himachal Pradesh, Chouhan said.
“You are a seasoned and senior leader of the party. It pains me to say the want of values which has been explained in your letter gets reflected in the writing of the letter itself," Chouhan wrote. "Being a member of a disciplined party it was naturally expected that information be gathered about the abovementioned incidents (the Vyapam scam). But instead of writing a letter to the party president, getting it propagated in the media and giving advice on an ethics committee is nothing but a paradox.”