MPPEB scam: Shivraj needs to come out clean on the issue

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MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan
As the investigation into multi-crore MPPEB scam reaches at the doorstep of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and his Ministers, Shivraj Singh Chouhan says that he did nothing wrong and will come out clean at the end. Chouhan also hit out at Congress for dragging him into the MPPEB issue. He said the Opposition Congress was suffering from "Shivraj phobia" as it is levelling "baseless" allegations of wrongdoings against him in connection with the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) scam. But Shivraj needs to come out clean on the issue as it is eroding his image in the public.

The scam has put several high-profile figures under suspicion including several BJP bigwigs. Taking chance of the situation, Congress is demanding an inquiry against CM alleging that he along with his family members played a vital role in the whole scam. Meanwhile, Chouhan has filed a defamation case against State Congress chief spokesman KK Mishra for making baseless allegations. In his defence, Chouhan said that Congress has become frustrated following a string of electoral defeats and its leaders are levelling such charges only to stay relevant. "Earlier also, Congress leaders had levelled baseless charges but in the end they turned out to be false and misleading," he said.

This is not the first time Chouhan is fighting graft taint, the Congress which never finds any loophole in his governance has number of times made such allegations against Chouhan and his family members. During the Assembly elections, the party through advertisements in different newspapers accused Chouhan of ‘keeping a currency counting machine at his official residence' and ‘giving contracts to his relatives', among others. Following this, Chouhan and his wife Sadhna Singh slapped a legal notice on Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

There is no denying the fact that Chouhan has delivered an excellent work in the State which led to three-consecutive win of the party. During his tenure, he may have strived for clean image of the Government but the recent allegations, which he claims to be baseless, definitely raise finger towards him and his Ministers. How can a multi-crore scam, estimated to run into nearly Rs 2,000 crore, takes place under his nose without his consent or knowledge. Or, if he had hint of such scam in making, why didn't he act timely? Such questions put CM's role under suspicion?

The Opposition has a strong reason for attacking the CM, it is maintaining that Chief Minister is also Minister of General Administration Department and the Public Service Commission of the State functions under the same department.

It is also noteworthy that departmental recruitment examinations are supposed to be conducted by the State Public Service Commission (PSC), in Madhya Pradesh, however, it was being conducted by the MPPEB, which is supposed to conduct only professional examinations. This also raised questions over the State Government's role in the scam.

What is MPPEB scam?

The massive recruitment scam in Madhya Pradesh, estimated to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore, allegedly been running for the past nine years. The scam first came into light when the local police busted a racket that helped candidates clear the PMT through unfair means. Further investigation led the police to uncover fraud in various other exams for State Government jobs. Call records later on brought not just senior IAS and IPS officials, retired judges, journalists in the dock, but also the several political bigwigs.

According to a PIL in the Jabalpur Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB), which conducts entrance and recruitment tests for admission in medical and engineering courses, and selection in certain Government services, has duped lakhs of candidates by setting up proxy candidates to clear various examinations. It also alleged that in the last nine years the MPPEB has made nearly Rs 125 crore by charging fees for 150 recruitment examinations, whose results were fixed.

Seeing the magnitude of the scam, the State Government handed over the case to Special Task Force for carrying out investigation. So far, 1,000 out of 1.47 lakh appointments and selections made by MPPEB have been found to be fake. FIR have been lodged against 150 people including political bigwigs in the State. The long list includes former Higher Education Minister Laxmikant Sharma and his Officer on Special Duty (OSD) OP Shukla, Governor Ram Naresh Yadav's OSD Dhanraj Yadav, former MPPEB controller of examination Pankaj Trivedi, chief convener of BJP's education cell Sudhir Sharma and Congress leader Sanjeev Saxena.

Former State Technical Education Minister and BJP leader Laxmikant Sharma, several top officials in MPPEB along with 100 students have already been arrested in the case.

Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Babulal Gaur has said that those found guilty will not be spared, irrespective of their position. Despite Gaur's statement, the involvement of so many officials and others with links to top ruling party politicians is bound to cast a shadow on Shivraj Singh Chouhan's Government. If found true this could be a dent in BJP's newly constructed image which has come to power at the Centre after a decade on the promise of corruption-free India.

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