Skeletons in BJP cupboard
S. Madhusudhana Rao
The BJP government at the centre and in Madhya Pradesh is refusing to see skeletons in the cupboard even after new revelations have come to light and more deaths have been reported in the Vyapam scam.
Exactly a week after the death of two accused in the job recruitment and college admissions scandal, two more died in suspicious circumstances. While TV Today journalist Akshay Singh died mysteriously on Saturday while interviewing the parents of a girl who was found dead after her name cropped up in the scam, Dr Arun Sharma, the dean of a medical college in Jabalpur, was found dead in a Delhi hotel on Sunday.
The journo had gone to Meghnagar near Jhabua town in Madhya Pradesh to investigate the multi-crore multi-layered Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal (Vyapam) scandal. According to reports, Akshay Singh died after drinking a glass of water and a cup of tea. Preliminary reason for the cause of his death was given as “massive heart attack.” Dr Sharma, who was heading a team set up by the state government to probe medical college admissions, too suffered similar fate in a Delhi hotel on Sunday morning.
He went to Delhi on way to Agartala. It’s a strange coincidence that Dr Sharma who was appointed as the dean of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Medical College in Jabalpur just about a month ago, died on the same day (July 4) as his predecessor and friend Dr DK Sakalle, last year, again, mysteriously. The latest victims have pushed the number of scam-related deaths so far to 46. (See Mystery deaths in MP, June 30).
Though one more death on Monday morning – that of a trainee police sub-inspector in Sagar – has been linked to the Vyapam scam, police insist that the trainee Anamika had committed suicide in a pond near the police training centre “due to stress.” Whether her death was related or not, the fact remains that the scam dead count has been rising by the day with the state government adopting a standoffish attitude to the whole issue.
What is galling is Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and his team thinks that since a High Court-appointed Special Investigation Team of MP police is probing the scam, a CBI inquiry, as demanded by Congress, is not necessary and if the premier probe agency steps in, it will be overriding the High Court’s powers and jurisdiction.
Even if one goes by that argument, the government has not come out with satisfactory answers to the questions every death has posed. In fact, the sudden demise of over 4o accused in different cases related to the scandal in suspicious ways should have raised serious concerns in Bhopal and New Delhi. While the state government considers the deaths ‘natural,’ the Modi government has been maintaining studied silence.
What baffles us is how the accused, suspects and those who are in the know of Madhya Pradesh’s biggest scam are dying of ‘natural causes’ irrespective of their age and profession. Even youths in their 20s, professional medical practitioners who, surely, knew the symptoms of heart attack, were victims. By dismissing these deaths as natural and heart attacks, the MP government is making a fool of itself and a laughing stock before others.
Ideally, the state should have ordered a separate inquiry into the mysterious deaths to clear misgivings about ‘natural demises.’ Neither the government has volunteered to do so nor has it prepared to, despite pressure from the opposition parties. On the contrary, the government has left it to SIT.
There is growing suspicion that the scam is only the tip of the iceberg. The dimensions of the racket may be bigger than originally thought. Its roots may be deeper and BJP cadres’ involvement can’t be ruled out since the messy business of giving government jobs and admissions in professional colleges –obviously for pecuniary gains –has started during the saffron party’s rule. Is it the reason why the Modi government and his party have chosen to remain silent spectators to the macabre happenings in Madhya Pradesh?
To douse the rising anger of people, particularly after Saturday-Sunday deaths, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday that the Madhya Pradesh government would order CBI inquiry into Vyapam scam if the High court or the Supreme Court feels there is a need for such a probe. “The government cannot ask the courts to order a CBI probe,” he said.
Rajnath may be correct, technically. But definitely the central government can seek a report on deaths of dubious nature from the MP government. Would it keep quiet if similar things were happening in a non-BJP ruled state? If CM Chauhan doesn’t feel obligated to put the controversial deaths and the scam in proper perspective, it’s the centre’s duty to make him do it. By its own inaction, the Modi government has amply demonstrated that it has not stood up to its promise of probity in public life and clean governance.
Already, the BJP government’s image has suffered because of IPL former boss Lalit Modi’s claims and his ‘close ties’ with Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajastahn Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. Now, the MP scam has posed a new challenge to Modi and his party. Unless the Prime Minister acts tough, BJP will not be able to retain its credibility.