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Congress smells blood, targets CM

New Delhi, June 27: The Congress has sensed its chance and mounted pressure on the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government for a CBI probe into an examination scam, alleging the involvement of the chief minister’s family and other bigwigs.

The “Vyapam scam” relates to allegations of bribery and impersonation in exams conducted to fill medical seats and recruit government staff for the past several years. It was exposed with the recent arrest of alleged impersonators and former BJP minister Laxmikant Sharma.

The Congress has alleged the investigations are being obstructed because senior politicians and bureaucrats as well as RSS leader Suresh Soni and Chouhan’s family are involved.

Union minister Uma Bharati, a rival of Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh politics, has described the scam as bigger than Bihar’s fodder scam of the 1990s that cost Lalu Prasad his chief minister’s chair and sent him to jail.

Satyadev Katare, the leader of the state Opposition, had held a news conference in Delhi two days ago to furnish documents and make direct accusations against Chouhan and Soni. Today, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh wrote a blog hurling charges against the state government.

He said the state government had used the public relations department “with huge funds at their disposalů to block the story till about a week back” before Sharma’s arrest blew the lid off the scandal.

Digvijaya also raised questions about the government’s “control” over the special task force that is probing the matter under the watchful eye of the chief justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court.

“Although (the) STF is headed by a very competent officer, he is working under the administrative control of the chief minister who himself or his family members may be accused” in the scandal, he wrote.

“(The) STF had interrogated Laxmi Kant Sharma twice and let him off obviously under pressure. Only now he has been arrested.”

Digvijay added that Chouhan, “after returning from South Africa”, had held a meeting to review the investigations where, “along with STF officers, chief secretary and DGP were also present”.

“It is reported that he (Chouhan) conveyed his anger to the STF,” he added, asking: “Is it not a blatant interference in the investigation of such a big scam where influential politicians, bureaucrats and police officials are under investigation? Would (the) chief justice take note of this?”

He also questioned the reported move to hold the hearings behind closed doors, saying: “Such a sensitive case deserves a public hearing.”

Digvijaya added: “Cracking of these exams have become big business. Now I believe shirts stitched with blue-tooth, tiny earphones and a SIM card are available in the market! Examinees can sit in the examination hall and speak to persons outside without the examiner coming to know of it. There are reports of certain teams who specialise in cracking entrance exams of even UPSC!”

He questioned the arrests of students and their parents, whom he described as unsuspecting victims of scamsters.

“Even those students who have failed (the Vyapam) exams are being picked up. One girl who has not even appeared for the exam has been arrested. Students who have unsuspectingly become victims of scamsters should be made approvers and not accused,” he wrote.

The Congress has also alleged irregularities in the state’s public service commission (PSC) exams. Katare claimed that copies of answer sheets the party had obtained through RTI applications showed different scores for different students for the same answer.

Katare said PSC rules had been tweaked to appoint the chief minister’s niece, Ritu Chouhan, as a deputy collector.