Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jul 15:
Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and opposition Congress today demanded the resignation of Union Petroleum & Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan after his name cropped up in connection with the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh.
An NDTV report quoting an income tax report from 2013 claimed mining baron Sudhir Sharma, currently in jail in connection with the Vyapam scam, made ‘huge payments in cash for air tickets, travel bills etc’ of a group of BJP leaders, including Pradhan.
The Petroleum and Natural Gas minister has denied the charges saying; “This maybe a one sided argument. My tickets were always booked by the party office. I have no link to Sudhir Sharma or the Vyapam scam.”
“One of the accused in the Vyapam scam– Sudhir Sharma–has shown in his Income Tax returns filed in 2013 that he had borne the travel expenses of Pradhan. If the report published in media is true, then the Union minister should immediately resign and cooperate in the ongoing CBI investigation into the Vyapam scam,” BJD spokesperson Pratap Keshari Deb said.
The state Congress too demanded the immediate resignation of Pradhan saying his continuation in the post would affect the fairness of the probe. “Since he had close links with an accused, it is only natural that he would come under the purview of the CBI investigation. Since there is every possibility of the probe being influenced if he continues in his post, he should resign from his post and cooperate with the investigation,” the Congress state unit said a statement.
Earlier in the day, AICC spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala demanded Pradhan’s resignation for fair and impartial investigation into the Vyapam job scandal in Madhya Pradesh.
“Dharmendra Pradhan should step down, and if he doesn’t, the Prime Minster should ask him to resign immediately,” said Surjewala.
Notably, Pradhan, who was not a Union minister at the time when he allegedly availed the services of Sharma.
The income tax report was based on diaries recovered during raids on Sudhir Sharma which had names of several top BJP and RSS leaders, including RSS Sarsanghchalak Suresh Soni and a Congress state legislator Veer Singh Bhuria.