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Like Modi, like BJP: mum on Vyapam

- Party declares scam 'closed'

Shivraj Singh Chouhan comes out after meeting Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on Wednesday. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi, July 8: The BJP has declared the Vyapam scam "closed" even before the Supreme Court tomorrow hears petitions asking for a CBI probe monitored by it.

"For us the Vyapam issue stands closed. No party leader will speak or comment on the issue. A CBI probe has been recommended and now the truth will come out," party secretary and media in-charge Shrikant Sharma said today.

In adopting silence on the recruitment scam that has been linked to at least 26 deaths, the BJP appears to have taken the cue from Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has not uttered a word on either the Lalit Modi scandal or Vyapam in spite of mounting pressure.

The BJP announcement to keep its lips sealed came on a day the Madhya Pradesh chief minister arrived in Delhi to meet external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who is herself under fire for helping disgraced cricket czar Lalit Modi secure British travel papers although he was wanted for questioning in India.

Sushma, an MP from Madhya Pradesh who is known to share a rapport with Chouhan, met him in the foreign minister's office, sources said. The official version was that the meeting was held to discuss preparations for the World Hindi Conference scheduled in Bhopal later this year.

Later, Chouhan declared that he would now request the Supreme Court to order a CBI probe in the Vyapam scam.

The chief minister had been resisting calls for a CBI probe but was yesterday prodded by the BJP's central leadership to recommend one as the Vyapam taint was threatening to cloud the image of the Narendra Modi government. The high court, to which the request was made, declined to take it up today pointing out that petitions were pending before the Supreme Court.

The top court is expected to hear petitions on Vyapam, including one from Congress leader Digvijaya Singh asking for a CBI probe monitored by the court, tomorrow.

The BJP declaration not to speak any more on the scam means that Chouhan, once seen as Modi's detractor in the party, would be left to fend for himself.

The scam, limited to Madhya Pradesh so long, was pitchforked into the national arena after the deaths last week of a journalist who was tracking it and a senior doctor who was assisting the probe.

Battling alone, Chouhan attacked the Congress for demanding his resignation and went about giving interviews to television channels in a bid to change the perception.

"Deaths are very unfortunate. But all the deaths should not be connected to Vyapam. I have nothing to hide and so I am ready to request the Supreme Court for a CBI inquiry," he said. "The Congress has been demanding my resignation. They have brought disrepute to the state," he added.

Under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, the government and the party believe that ignoring an issue was the best way to ensure its burial, sources said. "Modiji had adopted similar tactics in Gujarat. He wants to give out the message that he is too busy with governance," a BJP leader said.

But old-timers in the party argued that what succeeded in Gujarat might not succeed in Delhi. The leaders said the way one scandal after another was spilling out to cloud the government that has been in office just over a year did not augur well.

"Ignoring does not always help. The way one scandal after another is coming out will lead people to wonder how we are different from the Congress," said a senior BJP leader who now stands sidelined.


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