Big time money scams we have seen but a killer scam is a new low for Indian polity

The Vyapam scam is different from any other scam in Independent India. While scandals continue without let, many involving thousands of crores of rupees as we saw in the last decade, never has the country witnessed the frightening phenomenon of around 46 deaths taking place in mysterious circumstances of those associated with a scam. Some ‘middlemen’ died in ‘accidents’ , the body of an accused was found on a railway track, yet others committed ‘suicide’ .

Pointing fingers at the Governor, CM, senior ministers, top bureaucrats and police officials, this scam has belatedly burst on the national scene – with recent fatalities including a young TV Delhi journalist who went to Madhya Pradesh to piece together the story. And he was dead the next day, the death made more tragic by the revelation of Congress leader Digvijaya Singh that he had cautioned him the previous day ‘to be careful’ . It has raised serious questions about the safety of journalists in the India of 2015.

Given the unease that the deaths have generated across Madhya Pradesh and India, and the growing lack of confidence in the Special Task Force (and SIT) probing the matter, it is a no brainer that the probe be handed over to CBI under the supervision of the Supreme Court – as is being demanded by opposition parties. For the simple reason that the local police is hardly likely to act against its bosses. The CM may argue that STF is acting without interference, but the fact is that the confidential reports of STF personnel are given by none other than the state government. From the way that anger is building up against the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, it is also in the interest of the beleaguered CM – once seen as a possible PM – to make the request for CBI both to the court and the Centre.

What’ s curious is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is silent on the subject, just as he did not say a word about Lalitgate. Several theories are being bandied about on the reasons for his silence. Since those involved in the controversies – Sushma Swaraj, who was also a PM contender at one time, Vasundhara Raje, with an independent mass following, and now Chouhan – were not known for their proximity to him, is he giving them a long rope to hang themselves, so to speak, instead of being seen to be acting against them?

Yet others believe that action against them could unite all his detractors, including members of the Margdarshan Mandal comprising senior leaders like L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi. And he would like to avoid this before the Bihar elections, so critical for the future trajectory of his government.

Vyapam has given an otherwise down and out opposition yet another stick to beat BJP with. But its gravity goes beyond that. Big time money scams we have seen. But a killer scam? That is a new low for our polity.