The Centre and the BJP on Tuesday continued to defend Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the Vyapam scam. The Centre also ruled out Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention in the issue.

In a controversial statement, Law Minister DV Sadananda Gowda said the Vyapam scam is a “silly issue” and there is no need for the Prime Minister to comment on it.

“See, certain issues which are so simple issues, so silly issues that need not be answered by the Prime Minister. Our Home Minister (Rajnath Singh), ministers of concerned departments and even my party (BJP) president Amit Shah have answered everything. For each and every silly issue Prime Minister has to answer, it is not fair,” he said.

Gowda said if there is a serious issue which is in the larger interest of the country, then the Prime Minister should be “requested” to give an answer.

But shortly later, as his remarks drew derisive comments, Gowda’s office issued a statement saying he did not refer to the Vyapam case as simple and silly. “He (Gowda) used the words simple and silly with reference to the Lalit Modi issue,” it said.

State subject

“The State has already initiated a SIT and they are going ahead with investigation...of course a series of deaths have occurred in the last few months. It is a matter of concern. I do concede, I don’t dispute that.

“But still it is a State subject...a suo motu CBI investigation cannot be conducted unless the State government requests for CBI investigation,” he said.

Gowda’s statement agitated opposition parties, which condemned his comments and reiterated that Chouhan should resign taking responsibility for the scam. The Congress also rejected Chouhan’s decision to seek a CBI probe. The party said an SIT monitored by the Supreme Court should probe the matter. So far 49 people have died in connection with the case, it added.

Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia said if Chouhan was as sensitive as he claimed to be, he should have written to the Home Minister recommending a CBI enquiry under the relevant provisions of the CBI manual and the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.

An unrelenting Congress stuck to its demand for Chouhan’s resignation, saying his departure is important for a neutral probe. It said Chouhan, who has been in power in Madhya Pradesh for over a decade, is trying to “mislead” people by requesting a CBI probe. “We remain firm on our demand for a Supreme Court-monitored probe,” Scindia said here today.

Criticising Gowda, Scindia said: “To say the least, this statement, in the light of all that has been happening in the country in the last few weeks, only shows the mindset of the government right now in power and the audacity with which they make these statements.”

Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh said that apart from the Vyapam recruitment scam, the probe into the deaths of people connected with the racket should also be handed over to the CBI.

Independent probe

The party cited the demand of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for an independent probe. Scindia said Union Minister Uma Bharti said she feared for her life and that of her supporters.

“Mysterious murders to shield financial beneficiaries and disrupt the investigations from reaching the kingpin of the Vyapam scam are refusing to let up.

“We have a Union Cabinet Minister, who is also the former CM of Madhya Pradesh, publically saying that she is scared for her own and her supporters’ security. On the other hand we have a Home Minister who blatantly shirks his responsibility by putting the onus of a CBI inquiry into the deaths or murders on the courts,” he added.