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Chouhan eyes poll relief

Bhopal, Aug. 19: A scam has snared a former party minister. CBI teams have come looking for leads. And the Opposition has smelt blood.

The discomfort index rising, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has set his sights on three Assembly bypolls.

The BJP leader has been busy campaigning for the August 23 by-elections. In his assessment, if the party retains Vijayraghavgarh, Bohriband and Aagar, his stock will go up.

Chouhan has been under fire over a multi-crore-rupee professional examination board (PEB)-cum-recruitment scam that a special task force of the state police has been probing. Madhya Pradesh High Court is monitoring the investigation into the scandal that has so far led to the arrest of a former BJP state minister and several others close to the state party leadership.

The Opposition Congress has been demanding a probe by the CBI and, while the Union government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not given the go-ahead, sleuths from the central agency have visited the state to look into some aspects of the scam.

Recently, a CBI team from Shimla reached Gwalior to find out details of all MBBS graduates who passed out from Gwalior Medical College in 2009-2010.

On the face of it, the CBI team from Shimla was in Gwalior to probe a case of impersonation in the All-India Pre-Medical/Pre-Dental Entrance Examination. According to sources, several students from Madhya Pradesh linked to the Gwalior module of the PEB racket had impersonated candidates in the pre-medical test.

A CBI team from Delhi was also spotted in Bhopal to book relatives of S.K. Jain, the arrested chairman and managing director of the state-owned Syndicate Bank.

The CBI has arrested Bhopal-based chartered accountants Vineet and Puneet Godha and four others in connection with the bribery case. A key accused, Purushottam Totlani, who is absconding, is said to have links with some senior state BJP leaders.

The Congress has put up a huge poster in the heart of Bhopal that says: “Bhag mama bhag, CBI aayi (run mama run; here comes the CBI).” The poster depicts cartoon characters resembling Chouhan and his wife. In Madhya Pradesh, Chouhan is popularly known as “mama” (maternal uncle).

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Satyadev Katare called for a CBI probe into the PEB scam. “There is involvement of the ‘high and mighty’ in the scam. We demand a CBI probe into the PEB scam,” he said.

It is believed that Katare has sent a confidential letter to Modi giving details of the scam.

Katare claims Chouhan will be in trouble if Modi hands over the PEB probe to the CBI. According to him, a relative of the chief minister cleared the 2009 state public service commission exam through unfair means.

State BJP circles, too, are intrigued by the visit of the CBI teams. Senior ministers in Chouhan’s cabinet say never before have CBI investigators visited the state without informing the state administration.

“This is certainly not a healthy sign for the chief minister. The move indicates that the investigation is being speeded up and someone is taking note of it,” said a disgruntled BJP leader in Bhopal.