Congress drags Dharmendra Pradhan into Vyapam scam; accuses BJP, RSS leaders of sharing the spoils

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VyapamContinuing its attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the multi-crore Vyapam scam, the Congress on Wednesday alleged that leaders of both the outfits had shared the scam money.

Congress alleged that Union Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan and RSS leader Suresh Soni benefited from the scam. Congress leaders also alleged that Pradhan got an air ticket from a Vyapam accused and demanded his resignation along with Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

“Dharmendra Pradhan should step down, and if he doesn’t, the Prime Minster should ask him to resign immediately,” said the Congress’ Randeep Singh Surjewala, also reiterating his party’s demand that the BJP’s Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan must resign.

Citing an internal report of the Income Tax department prepared on the basis of documents recovered during 2011 raids on the premises of Vyapam scam kingpin Sudhir Sharma and others,

Surjewala said the money was being shared in various forms and one of them was to fund the travel expenses.

“Kingpin of Vyapam scam Dr Sudhir Sharma along with Lakshmikant Sharma shared the money with Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan,” Surjewala said.

According to him, one of the documents recovered during the raids mentions that Sudhir Sharma paid for air tickets of Dharmendra Pradhan, the minister of state for petroleum and natural gas (independent charge).

Travel expenses of Bharatiya Janata Party vice president Prabhat Jha and his sons Tushmul Jha and Ayatan Jha were also paid for by the Vyapam accused, the Congress leader added.

Among others named by the Congress with whom Sudhir Sharma allegedly shared the Vyapam money include RSS leader Suresh Soni and BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP A Dave.

“Dharmendra Pradhan also has no moral right to continue as Cabinet minister. He should either step down or be sacked,” Surjewala demanded.

‘Kill India’

The Congress also demanded the resignation of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, saying a fair probe by the CBI into the scam is not possible till Chouhan remains the chief minister.

“Vyapam scam is a huge scam. The future of 77 lakh students is at stake,” said Congress leader Jairam Ramesh.

“The PM says ‘Skill India’ but in Madhya Pradesh, it’s happening ‘Kill India’,” Ramesh said, referring to the launch of ‘Skill India’ programme by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Surjewala said if Chouhan remains CM, the CBI probe will be compromised.

“Chouhan should be removed for the sake of a fair probe,” he said.

Surjewala alleged that the Chief Minister has been misleading the people of Madhya Pradesh as well as the state Legislative Assembly on the Vyapam scam.

Releasing a new set of documents, the Congress leader said Chouhan, as the then medical education minister, had told the Assembly on March 31, 2011 that no fake candidate had been detected in professional examinations.

However, FIRs had been registered in the state two years back which had named fake candidates, Surjewala pointed out.

“There were several FIRs against impostor students in Indore, Bhopal and other places but the CM claimed otherwise,” Surjewala said.

“The CM also claimed that a forensic investigation was conducted by a Hyderabad lab, but RTIs reveal that no such investigation was carried out by the STF probing the case,” Surjewala added.

He further accused Chouhan of trying to protect those involved in the scam.

“Chouhan said on the floor of the Assembly that investigations were underway against students and parents but no official had been found guilty.”

“The CM lied to the House and misled it by claiming that no government or Vyapam officer was involved. But, on the same floor of the Assembly, he later admitted that some 1000 people were recruited through dubious means. Why has no action been taken against them,” Surjewala asked.