In an unprecedented development for Gujarat, the seemingly invincible BJP has been brought to its knees with a vociferous opposition forcing the State Government to cancel the controversial head clerks exam after it has been established that the paper had leaked.
And this victory — whether the BJP or the Congress likes it or not — belongs to the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party in Gujarat. After the party nudged the Congress out of the opposition space in the Surat Municipal Corporation elections in February, the AAP had spotted an opportunity in Gujarat.
This belief was strengthened further when it equally split the vote share with the Congress in the recent Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation polls and the BJP registered a resounding victory. This election was significant since the BJP never won the GMC elections and had toppled the Congress-ruled civic body to capture power earlier.
In the paper leak controversy, the Congress party did organise protest demonstrations and even called on Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel but was scarcely noticed.
The AAP was on top. First, an AAP youth wing leader blew the whistle on what has now emerged as a huge racket in leaking a government exam paper. And then, the combined might of spirited leaders who do not even have a local stature helped by strong cadres forced the government to order a police inquiry into the scam.
And on Tuesday, the December 12 exam for 186 candidates, was cancelled. A mind-boggling 2 lakh job-seekers had sent in applications and over 88,000 candidates sat for this exam.
Albeit, the BJP Government did concede eventually that the paper had indeed leaked and quickly initiated a police inquiry. And in less than a week, the Gandhinagar Local Crime Branch and the Sabarkantha Police arrested 14 people and filed FIRs.
Stating that the exam has been cancelled and would be rescheduled, Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi told media persons in Gandhinagar on Tuesday that the paper leak would be “tried in a fast-track court to set an example.”
Asked about action against Asit Vora, chairman of the Gujarat Subordinate Services Selection Board (GSSSB), Sanghavi asserted, “Nobody found involved in the paper leak will be spared. Even those who bought the leaked paper won’t be spared.”
He informed that as much as Rs 30 lakh had been recovered from the accused persons in the racket. The minister said the exam would be conducted in a new format “in a foolproof manner, to ensure there are no loopholes which could be misused.”
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, he said the CM decided to cancel the exams in the larger interest of nearly 88,000 candidates who had appeared for it.
“A fresh exam will be conducted in March 2022 in a more transparent manner and using a different method. All the candidates who had filled up forms for the previous test will be considered eligible for the new test,” the minister said.
Gujarat BJP President CR Paatil, who convened a press conference over the issue, said, “There is no evidence so far on the involvement of Asit Vora except allegations. It is natural he may be under a cloud, but there is no evidence so far. We will not spare him or anyone, even if from the BJP if conclusively found involved in the racket.”
The written exam for the recruitment of 186 head clerks was held at different centres across the state on December 12 by the Gujarat Subordinate Service Selection Board (GSSSB), with nearly 88,000 aspirants appearing for the test.
Meanwhile, the Gandhinagar police on Monday night arrested Jayesh Patel (39), who claimed to be the main accused in the paper leak racket.
He was subsequently handed over to the Sabarkantha police, as the FIR in connection with the crime was registered at Prantij police station there, Sabarkantha Superintendent of Police Neeraj Badgujar said.
Two candidates – Ritesh Prajapati and Ronak Sadhu – who had appeared in the exam after obtaining the leaked paper from Jayesh Patel and his associates, were also nabbed by the Sabarkantha police on Monday night, the official said.
With this, so far 14 people have been arrested from different parts of the state in connection with the case, he said. The FIR was lodged at Prantij police station a week back under Indian Penal Code Sections 420 (cheating), 409 (criminal breach of trust) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy), he said.
“Jayesh Patel is a native of Unchha village in Sabarkantha and was on the run after his name surfaced in the paper leak case. We have also arrested two candidates – Prajapati and Sadhu – who had used the leaked paper. While Prajapati offered to pay ₹ 12 lakh, Sadhu had agreed to pay ₹ 5 lakh for the paper. However, the money was yet to be paid,” the police official said.
Two other persons – Deval Patel and Satish Patel – both associated with Mr Jayesh Patel, are still on the run and police teams are formed to nab them, he said.
Investigations have revealed that Jayesh Patel and other accused persons allegedly managed to acquire the question paper from the manager of a printing press before the exam. They allegedly sold it to over 15 candidates and also helped them in solving the paper at various locations a day before the exam.
The paper then reached various candidates, who were divided into three groups and taken to three different locations near Prantij on December 11 by Jayesh Patel and others to solve the question paper.
On the examination day, the accused persons arranged transportation to drop these candidates to their respective examination centres, the FIR said.
A day after the December 12 exam, AAP’s youth wing leader Yuvrajsinh Jadeja alleged that the question paper was leaked prior to the exam.
He provided evidence in the form of a notebook page having handwritten answers to some of the questions asked in the exam.