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ACB action on Ashok Gehlot turf: Why arrests in Rajasthan are being seen in political terms

Following the arrests, the Supreme Court questioned the ACB on the arrests, and gave the ex-VC conditional bail while asking the other accused to move the lower court for bail.

Written by Mahim Pratap Singh |
January 25, 2017 12:14:13 am
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Earlier this month, the Rajasthan Anti Corruption Bureau arrested five people, including a former Congress MLA and a former Vice Chancellor of Jodhpur’s Jai Narain Vyas University, in a 3-year-old alleged recruitment scam. Rejected applicants had held dharnas outside the university and the collectorate for weeks, and several university professors had directly blamed the VC for the scandal.

Following the arrests, the Supreme Court questioned the ACB on the arrests, and gave the ex-VC conditional bail while asking the other accused to move the lower court for bail.

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The alleged scam

In 2012-13, the accused — Congress ex-MLA Jugal Kabra, former VC B S Rajpurohit, former Dean of Law Faculty S S Sharma, Syndicate member D S Khichi and clerk Kesavan Embran — allegedly corrupted the recruitment process for assistant professors and associate professors. According to the ACB, they colluded to fill most of the 111 posts with underqualified candidates who had passed neither the National Eligibility Test (NET) nor the State Level Eligibility Test (SLET). They included relatives and favourites of the accused, and those who paid for the job.

The modus operandi

Applications were accepted long after the last date advertised, and more than the mandated number of applicants were called for the interview. “There were three categories of selected candidates: the brilliant and deserving who had to pay to get selected despite being qualified, the very influential who also paid but substantially lesser, and those who were absolutely undeserving and paid a lot of money,” ACB IG V K Singh told The Indian Express.

What government found

Then Chief Secretary C K Matthew sought an explanation from the VC, and the Higher Education Department’s opinion. In a departmental note in 2013, Principal Secretary Rajeev Swarup concurred with most of the allegations, saying “vested interests (had) bulldozed their way into the university” in violation of UGC regulations. “The VC”, Swarup said, “had decided to accept applications of such persons who completed their qualifications (in the period between the advertisement and the interviews)”, and described his action as being “not transparent”.

While the VC justified the shortlisting process, Swarup found that persons who “did not fulfill the qualifications at the time of submission were shortlisted and even selected”. He indicted the university for not giving priority to those who had the qualifications, as well as for not rejecting unqualified candidates.

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Politics of arrests

Jodhpur is the home turf of former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, and Kabra is considered his close confidant. Both Gehlot and the state Congress, led by Sachin Pilot, said the arrests were motivated by petty vendetta of the ruling BJP. Gehlot accused Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje of misusing the ACB.

Earlier this month, the ACB had also arrested three persons including two officials of the Jodhpur Development Authority in a year-old case. ACB’s prime target in this case was Rajendra Solanki, perceived as another Gehlot confidant, who, however, evaded arrest.

The ACB action in two old cases in Jodhpur in quick succession is being seen as the BJP’s move to take the political battle to Gehlot’s home turf. But even as the Congress continues to cry foul, top ACB sources alleged that “influential people who definitely had political backing” were involved in both cases.

After the arrests, Gehlot met Kabra and the other accused at the ACB headquarters in Jodhpur and assured them of “justice”. Asked about his support to the accused, he said there could have been procedural lapses, but ruled out financial corruption.

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