Vyapam scam: why the BJP will stand behind Shivraj Chouhan
- More and more people connected to the Vyapam scam in MP are being found dead.
- There are concerns of a purposely-botched investigation to protect powerful individuals.
- Opposition has trained its guns on CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
- Congress has called him a \'merchant of death\' while AAP has demanded action from the PM.
- The BJP believes the Vyapam probe is being conducted to the satisfaction of courts.
- There is a general consensus within the party and RSS that Chouhan shouldn\'t step down.
- If the CM is dropped, Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar is likely to be the party\'s choice.
The body count is increasing day by day, and the mystery that is Madhya Pradesh's Vyapam scam is getting more and more tangled up. Seemingly with each passing day, another person related to the scam is found dead, and the public has finally started noticing this trend and raising a hue and cry about it.
For the Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules the Centre and the state, the headaches are getting more and more severe. After the PR damage of the Lalit Modi expose and corruption charges in states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the party now has to contend with something much more serious - and dangerous.
Read more: Why we may never know the truth about the Vyapam scam
About 25 deaths, which have been labelled suspicious by the chief of the Vyapam SIT itself, have given the opposition an opportunity to attack the state government. They are demanding a Supreme Court-controlled CBI inquiry and the immediate sacking of MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
The heat is on
A Facebook post that is doing the rounds sums up the unnerving situation for the BJP. It reads: "BJP is criticising Congress for Syama Prasad Mookerjee's 'mysterious' death, but remains silent on more than 25 mysterious deaths in Madhya Pradesh."
In a more direct attack, Congress leader Arun Yadav said: "The head of the Vyapam scam is definitely the Chief Minister. He has become a maut ka saudagar (merchant of death)."
The opposition doesn't stop here. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, is in the line of fire.
Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal said: "The PM should not remain silent. People want him to speak and intervene."
Even senior BJP leader and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley seemed to suggest the central leadership had had enough when he spoke about the need for "a fair probe" last week.
No question of ouster
So, is the deck really stacked against Chouhan? Not really, as reflected by the statement from Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
He said: "There is no need for a CBI probe in the Vyapam scam as both the (MP) High Court and the Supreme Court are satisfied with the ongoing investigation. If the High Court feels that the SIT is not able to probe properly, and if it gives directions, the government is ready for a CBI probe."
A senior RSS leader seconded Rajnath's comments. "The case is already with High Court. The inquiry is on. It's not in the state government's hands," he said.
BJP's state in-charge, Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, told Catch: "Let's not jump to hasty conclusions. We are constantly looking into and assessing the developments in the state. Aisa nahi hai ki wahan pe kuchh ho raha hai aur hum haath pe haath dhare baithe hain (It's not as though something is happening there and we are sitting idle)."
RSS and BJP think there is no need for a CBI probe as the MP High Court and the Supreme Court are satisfied
Sources in the party and the RSS say there is little possibility of Chouhan's resignation. Unlike other recent cases, an inquiry is already going on in the Vyapam case. Sacking him would mean the BJP accepts his involvement in the scam.
Like in the case of the other exposes, though, there is also the school of thought that if one person is asked to resign, others can't be spared either. For it is not only Chouhan who is facing the heat - many more from the party and the RSS are also allegedly involved.
"It's a tough time for Shivraj. The attacks on the party in the states and the Central government are a matter of concern for all of us," said an RSS source.
The source, though, believes it is too early to ask for resignations. "The habit of asking for resignations on a daily basis comes with being in the opposition. It's the wrong kind of politics," he said.
If Chouhan goes, who takes over?
Though the party denied any urgent need to look for a possible replacement for Chouhan, some are whispering certain preferred names.
"Kailash Vijayvargiya was a strong candidate. However, Narendra Singh Tomar is the more preferred option. He is in the good books of all - Chouhan, the RSS and the party leaders at the Centre," said a party source.
On his part, Tomar, the Union Minister for Steel and Mines and a BJP MP from Gwalior, has sprung to Chouhan's defence. He said: "The Congress's allegations are based on falsehood. The state government is dealing with the scam seriously."
It certainly seems the mood in the BJP is the same as it has been for all the other controversies - hold fort and let the storm blow over.