Bhopal: Faced with the strongest demand for his removal in nearly 10 years as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan today told NDTV that he had "yielded to the wishes of the public" by asking the CBI to investigate a scam that has besieged his government.
"A democracy functions on the voice of the people," said the Chief Minister, who won his third consecutive term in 2013. "The incidents of the last few days have disturbed me," he said, referring to the opposition's allegations that the recent deaths of those linked to the scam are part of a brutal cover-up. "I have asked for the CBI to examine the deaths as well, but don't link every death to the investigation," he said.
Since 2013, the Vyapam scam, as it is known, has been investigated by a special team of the state's police force under the supervision of a retired judge. For years, Mr Chouhan and the Madhya Pradesh High Court did not entertain the suggestion that a CBI inquiry would likely be more impartial.
The weekend's developments led to a national takeover of what had largely been a state-level controversy about a corrupt system where imposters or fake candidates took qualifying exams for highly-prized admissions to state-run colleges and government jobs. On Saturday, a journalist reporting on the Vyapam scam died suddenly. The next day, the dean of a medical college linked to the scam was found dead.
The outrage over those deaths allowed the Congress, which has had no joy in Madhya Pradesh for over a decade, to recover some of its mojo as an opposition party. Its Digvijaya Singh is among four people whose appeal for a CBI inquiry will be heard on Thursday by the Supreme Court.
"This is not a crisis for me," said Mr Chouhan to NDTV. "There hasn't been a more widespread investigation than the one held for the Vyapam scam," he claimed.