A woman, who the opposition Congress had claimed was recommended for a teacher’s job by the wife of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, is on the list of suspicious deaths related to the Vyapam scam, HT has found.
A state-level probe in the scam had earlier said Premlata Pandey died of liver cancer in 2013, but the CBI has reopened the case into her death, the spokesperson of the central investigating agency said.
Attempts by HT to trace the family of Pandey too proved futile as all three mobile phone numbers of her brother-n-law Rakesh Pandey, also an accused in the scam, were switched off.
The family's addresses on police records -- Nehru Nagar, Bhopal and originally hailing from Beohari, Shahdol -- also could not be traced as local police, too, had no idea about them.
The CBI took over the investigations into the scam earlier this month and is now probing several mysterious deaths including that of Pandey, whose name was recommended by Chouhan’s wife Sadhna, the Congress had alleged in a press release in February.
Vyapam scam: CBI to probe 9 more suspicious deaths
The Congress has been demanding Chouhan’s ouster over the multi-layered scam involving rigging of exams for admission to medical colleges and recruitment in government jobs.
“We are taking up those cases for preliminary enquiry in which required information has been received,” CBI spokesperson Kanchan Prasad said over phone from Delhi. Sources, however, said that cases that looked prima facie suspicious are being taken up by the agency.
Premlata (roll number 41414282) and Sandhya (36213523) had both made it to the list of successful candidates allegedly with the help of a racket which once helped candidates rig the recruitment tests conducted by the tainted MP Professional Examination Board, popularly known by its Hindi acronym Vyapam. Their candidatures were, however, cancelled later.
The special task force had earlier found that she died of liver cancer in 2013, aged between 33 and 35 years. At least 40 people with some links to the scam have died under mysterious circumstances, which the Congress sees as a part of a conspiracy to silence key witnesses.
Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh had earlier released details of text messages to allege that Chouhan’s wife had recommended the names of Premlata as well as her sister-in-law Sandhya Pandey for selection as teachers.
However, he too was taken aback when HT informed that one of the woman named by him was dead.
“Even I had not noticed this. This is new (information),” Singh said on Tuesday.
Chouhan has been categorically denying any links to the scam.
In February, Digvijaya had claimed that Rakesh Pandey had forwarded the names of his sister-in-law (Premlata) and sister (Sandhya) to Sadhna Singh (phone number registered in her maiden name Kokila Singh and later discontinued) through an SMS on May 9, 2012.
Sadhna had allegedly forwarded this number to a key scam accused Sudhir Sharma, a powerful mining baron now in jail for his alleged links to the exam racket.
“My contention is that all the others mentioned in the link are in jail while one particular person (Sadhna) was not even questioned. Why is that?” Digvijaya Singh said on Tuesday.
Although HT could not verify the SMS exchange independently, an online phone number search showed that numbers released by Digvijaya Singh are recorded in the names of persons to whom they have been attributed.
However, SK Mishra, the principal secretary to the chief minister, said on Tuesday that the details given by the Congress were flawed as the source person (Rakesh Pandey) had sent the SMS to two different persons (destination 1, Sadhna Singh and destination 2, Sudhir Sharma) and that it was not a chain SMS (Pandey to Singh to Sharma) as has been alleged.