Bhopal/New Delhi: The central government on Monday rejected calls for a CBI probe into the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh, even as a police trainee recruited through Vyapam was found dead -- the third death in three days, while union minister Uma Bharti said she fears for the lives of those around her.
While the central government rejected calls for a CBI probe, Uma Bharti called for it.
"There is panic in Madhya Pradesh due to the deaths. I am scared for the lives of people connected to me. I am a minister, but still I am scared. I will convey my fears to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan," Uma Bharti told India Today TV channel.
"I suspect a big conspiracy," she said, but refused to elaborate on her statement.
Uma Bharti. File pic
A former Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Bharti has been mentioned in one of the FIRs in the case.
Even as a police trainee recruited through Vyapam was found dead in Sagar district on Monday, Chouhan, under pressure from the opposition to quit, said that while every death was sad, "it is not fair to link every death to Vyapam".
In an interview to India Today channel later, the chief minister called it an attempt to create an atmosphere of fear in the state.
"Unfortunate incidents have occurred, I agree, but there is an attempt to create an atmosphere of fear in the state."
He also expressed confidence that the scam will not dent his image.
"Vyapam scam will not dent my image. The truth will come out before the people. I have a spotless record and I assure you that no one will be spared in the probe," he added.
Trainee police sub-inspector Anamika Kushwaha became the third alleged victim of the scam since Saturday. She was selected through the Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal or Vyapam. Her body was found near a pond in the Police Training Centre in Sagar.
Sagar's Superintendent of Police Sachin Atulkar, however, denied any connection between her death and the scam.
The Congress, the AAP and the CPI-M, meanwhile, stepped up attacks on the central and Madhya Pradesh governments over the rising number of deaths in the recruitment scandal.
They demanded a CBI probe, but union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said there was no need for a CBI inquiry as the Special Investigation Team probing the scam reported to the Madhya Pradesh High Court, and not the state government.
"The SIT is not working under the government, but under the supervision of the high court," Rajnath Singh said in Jhabua.
On Sunday, Arun Sharma, dean of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Medical College at Jabalpur, who was connected with the probe into the scandal, was found dead in a hotel room near Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport.
A day earlier, television journalist Akshay Singh died in Jhabua soon after interviewing the family of one of the accused in the scam who had died.
More than 40 people associated with the admission and recruitment racket in Vyapam have died since 2013 -- either in mysterious circumstances or have committed suicide.
The admission and recruitment racket apparently involves politicians, officials and businessmen.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should "no more remain silent" over the scam.
Another Aam Aadmi Party leader, Kumar Vishwas, on Monday filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court.
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Brinda Karat alleged that the SIT was protecting Chouhan, adding that she did not believe that an impartial investigation would be carried out in Madhya Pradesh.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in power in Madhya Pradesh, accused the Congress of playing politics over "dead bodies" and said only the Madhya Pradesh High Court can refer the investigation to the CBI.
BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain told the Congress to have faith in the judiciary.
In Delhi, the Press Club of India (PCI) and the Indian Women's Press Corps (IWPC) on Monday expressed concern over the death of journalist Akshay Singh and demanded an impartial, time-bound probe preferably by the CBI.
The PCI and IWPC also said the journalist's viscera samples should be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's forensic laboratory in the US.
The journalists also demanded that Akshay Singh's family members be given adequate compensation by the Madhya Pradesh government, the Delhi government and the union information and broadcasting ministry.