Probe will clear me: Chouhan

“Congress trying to destroy my popularity”

Updated - November 29, 2021 01:12 pm IST

Published - July 27, 2015 01:41 am IST - BHOPAL

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Photo: A.M.Faruqui.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Photo: A.M.Faruqui.

Sitting cross-legged on a sofa, his limbs moving occasionally in a playful manner — a man’s sitting posture can reveal a lot about his mood. So can his smile.

The CBI probe into the Vyapam scam has definitely taken the pressure off Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan and if his close aides are to be believed the smile on his face is authentic. “He was definitely feeling the heat for a few days. The smile on his face was missing,” says a BJP MLA.

The CBI probe will remove all doubts, he tells The Hindu in an interview.

In his 10-year tenure as CM — the first non-Congress one to achieve the feat in MP — Mr. Chouhan is arguably amid his toughest time as allegations of corruption in the Vyapam scam taint his credibility. His well-cultivated image of a clean and humble politician has been hit nationally, he admits, primarily due to the “media sensation” over his alleged involvement. “But in the State, my image has not been spoiled. The people know that it is a conspiracy against me. Satya ka Sooraj doobta nahi. [Truth can never be hidden]. The doubts will soon disappear.”

A confident Mr. Chouhan dismisses the impression that he is under any pressure from the Congress, which has been demanding his resignation to ensure a fair probe. “Next they will say, hang Shivraj,” he chuckles. “This is not about Vyapam. The Congress is trying to destroy my image for its own survival. It cannot bear to see me as a popular leader. I am pained by its disgraceful conspiracy, which has stained the reputation of the State. But we will cleanse it...”

"My credibility is at stake"

Rising from the ground, the son of a farmer from Sehore, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s political career has witnessed a steady upward trajectory. Groomed by the RSS, he started out as a students union president before winning his first MLA election from Budhni in 1991. He then went on to represent Vidisha five times in a row as MP. In 2005, he was appointed State BJP chief and the same year in November he replaced Babulal Gaur as the CM.

While the BJP and the RSS are understood to be largely backing him, certain signs of civil strife have surfaced especially with Mr. Gaur, believed to be in the opposite camp, taking potshots at the CM recently for not keeping him in the loop on Vyapam. However, Mr. Gaur denies that he has an agenda against Mr. Chouhan and that his comments were “twisted” by the media. Without targeting anyone, Mr. Gaur says “the whole State machinery is to be blamed for the scam.” When asked if it included the CM, he remained evasive.

Known for his humble and soft-spoken persona, Mr. Chouhan, a Philosophy gold medalist, has carefully cultivated a clean image over the decade. His over-reliance on his popularity and corruption-free image have made him vulnerable this time as he faces serious charges.

Many say he mishandled the entire controversy bowing under pressure to call for a CBI probe. Mr. Chouhan, however, differs saying he relied on the law to take its course but when “the defamation campaign got too much” he was compelled to call for a CBI probe. “Too many lies were being spread. A CBI probe will remove all doubt. I am proud to call for a probe,” he says.

Mr. Chouhan has been especially embarrassed by the alleged transgressions and corruption charges against his wife Sadhna Singh and her brother over the years. Be it the dumper scam or the alleged illegal appointment through Vyapam of 19 constables from Gondia, her home district in Maharashtra, or alleged patronage to mining mafia Ms. Chouhan has been a controversial figure.

‘Achilles heel’

Some BJP leaders even believe that in the public image she is Mr. Chouhan’s Achilles heel, an easy target for the Congress to embarrass him. “It is no secret that people consider her his weak link. They believe her to be involved in corruption but they can live with that. But it is hard for them to digest that Shivraj would be corrupt,” a BJP leader says. Mr. Chouhan, however, is quick to come to her defence calling the allegations a Congress ploy to use her as a soft target to malign his image.

After the initiation of the CBI probe, the BJP has begun an offensive to counter the allegations by the Congress, focusing its strategy on digging out cases from the Digvijaya Singh tenure and linking the genesis of the scam to the Congress rule. In a recent rally in Alirajpur, Mr. Chouhan called Mr. Singh a “born conspirator.” The sudden surfacing of the case of death under mysterious circumstances of Congress leader Sarla Mishra 18 years ago and the BJP’s demand for a CBI inquiry is a point. So is its campaign against Leader of Opposition Satyadev Katare for alleged disproportionate assets. Interestingly, the CM’s office is also distributing a 23-page booklet to debunk allegations on Vyapam. Mr. Chouhan is also planning a Swabhimaan Yatra across the State to counter allegations against him and publicise his achievements. Is this a sign of being on the defensive? “I will present my report card of the last decade, and my vision for coming years. Vyapam is not the main point here,” he says.

Mr. Chouhan says his focus from the outset has been improving the infrastructure of MP, once counted among the BIMARU States. “Road, water and electricity, these have been my focus,” he says. Among his top achievements, he considers the remarkably high growth rate of agriculture, around 22-24 percent, surge in power production from 4000 mega watt in 2005 to the present 15,000 mega watt and the increase in irrigated land from 7.5 lakh hectare to 36 lakh hectare. “That will come to 50 lakh hectare in the next three years,” he says.

However, what has brought him national accolades are schemes for women uplift such as organising mass marriages, supporting girls education and checking female infanticide. These initiatives have earned him the tag of “Mamaji” or maternal uncle, an image he has carefully developed over time. “It started with the girls and their mothers, now everybody calls me Mamaji,” Mr. Chouhan smiles.

In comparison to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr. Chouhan he is seen as soft and secular, as he often dons the skull cap in public and has prevented major communal violence. His detractors, however, say he has curbed the authority of institutions while centralising power, a manifestation of which was the Vyapam scam. “During the Congress rule there are stories galore how appointments would be made by scribbling orders on the cigarette pack by the CMs. I tried to make the procedure systematic and transparent, like introducing rag tags for police recruitment,” says Mr. Chouhan, who has presented himself as the whistleblower of the scam. “If I had to hide something, why would I order the STF to go deeper into the fraud? It was a question on my credibility. Back then [2013] the Congress and the media didn’t know. I exposed it,” he says.

Despite the enormity of the scam, the Congress has failed to take any electoral advantage of the situation, owing much to its own deficiencies and infighting, and a powerful PR campaign by the ruling party. Vyapam surfaced just before the 2013 Assembly elections but it could not prevent Mr. Chouhan from muscling his way to a hat trick securing 165 out of 230 seats. This was followed by the decimation of the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections and the perfect score of all 14 seats in the urban civic body elections in January-February. Now recently, the BJP regained the Garoth seat in a by-election. BJP leaders say Mr. Chouhan’s popularity is what keeps him floating. “He has little control over the bureaucracy. And that’s one reason why the Vyapam corruption got so big. He survives due to his popularity among the people,” a BJP leader says.


Noting that it will not allow even one more death, the Supreme Court transferred all criminal and death cases linked to the Vyapam scam to the Central Bureau of Investigation for a “fair and impartial” probe.

The Supreme Court has ordered a CBI probe into the multi-crore cash-for-jobs scam in the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board that has resulted in unexplained deaths of key accused and witnesses.

A Trail of graft and gore

  • 1982: Vyaysayik Pareeksha Mandel (Vyapam) set up to conduct entrance examinations for pro-fessional courses
  • 2008: Recruitment tests for government Jobs also included
  • July 5, 2009: Widespread irregularities in recruitments come to light
  • 2009: Medical exam paper leaked; first complaint filed
  • December, 2009: Chief Minister forms panel to probe scam
  • Jul 7, 2013: Police register FIR, arrest 20 impersonators
  • Jul 16, 2013: Jag-dish Sagar, kingpin of scam, arrested
  • Aug 26, 2013: STF takes over probe, 55 FIRs registered
  • Oct 9, 2013: Admissions of 345 examinees cancelled
  • Dec 18,2013: Ex-Higher Education Minister Laxmikant Sharma booked
  • Jun 29, 2015: SIT says 23 people related to scam died due to 'Unnatural causes"; unofficial count puts figure at 46
  • July 7: Chouhan agrees to CBI probe

The Whistleblowers

Ashish Chaturvedi, 26-year-old social activist from Gwalior, claims CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan is a key player in the scam.

Prashant Pandey, cyber expert roped in by the STF, retrieved key Vyapam files.

Anand Rai, Indore-based RTI activist flied a PIL which led to the probe.

Vyapam scam

  • » The Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh dates back to 2007, with investigations in the case starting after some details came to light in 2013.
  • » It has been alleged by the Congress as well as several social activists that the officials took money to compromise the examination and recruitment.
  • »Editorials:>The Vyapam scam trail
  • >The tentacles of Vyapam
  • » CBI probe is just a start, says Digvijaya Singh in an >interview to The Hindu
  • » Congress leaders openly accused MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his wife of being involved in the scam. Later, they submitted the "original evidence".
  • » Earlier this year, Chief Minister Chouhan claimed in a >letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi that the developments regarding the Vyapam scam provided proof of his honesty as he was the one who ordered a probe into it.
  • »> Here are five things you need to know about Vyapam Scam.
  • >

    SC transfers Vyapam investigation to CBI

    The whistleblowers are Ashish Chaturvedi, Dr Anand Rai and Prashant Pandey seeking an apex court-monitored CBI probe into the scam.

  • >

    Madhya Pradesh Governor may be on way out

    The indications came after Home Minister Rajnath Singh met President Pranab Mukherjee on June 09.

  • >

    MP lawyer Adarsh Munni Trivedi falls ill

    The chairman of MP HC Bar Association, who had in the past represented petitioners seeking a CBI probe in the scam, took ill and his family suspected an attempt at food poisoning.

  • >

    Medico Namrata Damor's death

    The police initially filed a case of murder, but while filing a closure report in 2014, termed it a suicide.

  • >

    Spate of deaths raises disturbing questions

    The Madhya Pradesh govt. rejected a demand for CBI probe.

  • >

    Another Vyapam scam accused dies in MP

    Narendra Singh Tomar died under mysterious circumstances in an Indore jail.

  • >

    Madhya Pradesh Governor Ram Naresh Yadav's involvement

    The Special Task Force probed the alleged involvement of Governor Ram Naresh Yadav. But later, the >FIR against him was quahed.

High-profile deaths

> Shailesh Yadav

He was found dead at his home in Lucknow in March. He was accused of taking money to help candidates from Bhind clear the exam for contractual teachers.

> D.K. Sakalley

He was the Dean of Jabalpur Medical College. He was also allegedly linked to the scam; he died of burns under suspicious circumstances.

> Akshay Singh

He worked for TV Today group, died soon after interviewing parents of a girl who was an accused and had herself died in suspicious circumstances.

> Arun Sharma

He was also the Dean of the Jabalpur-based College. He was probing fake examinees in the Scam. He was found dead in a hotel in Delhi.


For full coverage of Vyapam Scam click here

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