Embattled Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Tuesday said he was ready for a CBI inquiry into the multi-layered scam in the state professional examination board (PEB), or Vyapam, which has become the biggest challenge for his third term in power.
Chouhan gave in to the demand from opposition parties and social activists for a CBI inquiry into the scam, which has become murkier following a string of mysterious deaths of accused, beneficiaries, whistleblowers and witnesses.
“In a democracy, the ruler should be above suspicion,” he said. “There are questions on people’s minds. People want to know the truth. Questions on people’s minds have to be answered. I bow my head to people’s wishes ... I am sending a request to the high court that the CBI be allowed to investigate the case.”
Political analysts viewed the remarks as a manoeuvre to take the Congress head-on as it has alleged that Chouhan and his family were involved in the scam.
“The Congress has been weaving a net of illusion and has nothing to do with the actual unraveling of the scam. It has produced forged documents to try to frame me. I would speak on the issue later,” he said. “They have been making baseless allegations that have been proven false time and again.”
The announcement came a day after Union home minister Rajnath Singh ruled out a CBI probe, saying a Madhya Pradesh high court-monitored special investigating team (SIT) was already investigating allegations of cheating during tests conducted by the tainted board for college admissions and recruitments in government departments.
“The SIT is not working under the Madhya Pradesh government, but under the supervision of the high court,” Singh said in Jhabua.
But opposition parties have alleged that the SIT reports to the high court-monitored special task force (STF), which is packed with people from the state government.
The chief minister’s decision on Tuesday came two years after the scam surfaced when Indore police arrested imposters who had allegedly written a PEB-conducted pre-medical test for candidates for a hefty fee.
It was later found that the Vyapam scam was on for almost a decade — a well-networked racket involving politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen that rigged exams, manipulated seating arrangements and answer sheets, and used impersonators.
Chouhan, popularly known as Mama or maternal uncle, had a clean image so far but the latest deaths of people associated with the scam have dented his reputation.
“Main bachta nahi raha, main raat bhar jaagta raha. Maine gambhirta purvak vichar kiya aur is natije par pahuncha (I wasn’t evading. I was awake all night and thought seriously about the issue before reaching this conclusion),” he said after announcing the CBI probe.
The chief minister made it clear that he still has full faith in the STF investigation, although the atmosphere created by his political rivals has sown seeds of doubt among the people.
As the opposition Congress clamoured for his removal and asked the Prime Minister to break his silence on the scam, Chouhan said he did not consult Narendra Modi to decide on a CBI probe but made a conscious decision to clear people’s doubts.
The chief minister refused to comment on Union minister Uma Bharti’s statement that she feared for the life of those connected to her vis-à-vis the spate of deaths in the Vyapam scam. “She is my sister … I have never made any comments about her even when she was not with the BJP.”