The clean chit given by the Kerala High Court to state Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin case, which cost the state exchequer Rs 374 crore, has come as a great relief to the CPM. But the shadow of corruption still looms large over the Left Democratic Front government in the state. Even as the court upheld the verdict of a CBI court, which allowed Vijayan’s discharge in the case, two of his Cabinet colleagues have come under scrutiny for malpractices. Within one year of completion of LDF rule, two ministers had to quit, one for nepotism and the other for sexual harassment; a record of sorts for the state. Also a sad state of affairs since the LDF swept to power on the promise of setting everything right all the mess that was left behind by the Congress-led United Democratic Front rule. But not a day passes without controversy relating to CPM or other constituents of the Front, even as political murders and violence against women continue unabated.
A single bench of the High Court last week had criticised Shailaja Teacher for extending the deadline for submitting applications for posts in the State Child Rights Commission. The allegation was that the extension was made for the appointment of two members of her choice to the commission.
The latest to be in the news for all wrong reasons are CPM’s Minister for Health and Social Welfare, K.K. Shailaja and Nationalist Congress Party’s nominee, Minister for Transport Thomas Chandy. In fact Chandy, better known with his affix “Kuwait”, had come in place of Saseendran, who was forced to quit following an expose of lewd talks over the phone with a female journalist. A single bench of the High Court last week had criticised Shailaja Teacher for extending the deadline for submitting applications for posts in the State Child Rights Commission. The allegation was that the extension was made for the appointment of two members of her choice to the commission. One of them is identified as an active worker of the CPM, who is facing over half a dozen criminal charges and was convicted in one of the cases. That this person was considered for the post despite police reports, was cited by the Opposition as a case of nepotism, while demanding her resignation. Though a division bench of the court removed certain remarks against the minister by the earlier judge, the case remains, with the appointment of the two put on hold. Shailaja Teacher is considered to be an honest politician and a fairly efficient minister. That she was told to go ahead with the appointment by the party was obvious with the way she was defended in the Assembly. As for Chandy, after trying his hand in many parties, he had finally hitched on to Sharad Pawar’s party. Though he claims to have made his millions “toiling” under the blazing sun in the Gulf, it is alleged that he was involved in many dubious financial deals while in Kuwait. He allegedly still runs quite a few business enterprises in the Gulf countries. Chandy is now embroiled in several cases of illegal acquisition of land and even levelling acres of backwaters adjacent to his Rs 150 crore swanky resort in Alappuzha, the so called Venice of the East. For a party like CPM to associate with such a character is anathema itself. For, comrades in the lower rungs still shout “drown the capitalists in Arabian Sea” in the streets of Kerala, while their leaders dine with moneybags in star hotels. Pinarayi Vijayan unabashedly rose in Chandy’s defence too in the Assembly. Chandy himself shed copious tears, recalling how he invested his hard earned money to the betterment of the poor in his district. Noted Malayalam writer and known Left sympathiser, N.S. Madhavan had condemned Chandy’s induction as a minister a few months ago. He said at the time, “Chandy was punished for cheating Indians in Kuwait. It is immoral for such a person to be appointed as a minister.” Still, Chandy continues to be in the good books of CPM, while the Opposition is mounting pressure on the government to summarily dismiss him, which seems to be a remote possibility at this time. While exonerating Vijayan of any misdeeds in the Lavalin case, the court has indicted three officials of the Kerala State Electricity Board for signing the deal with the Canadian company SNC Lavalin, which has now been blacklisted. Letting off Vijayan does not mean that the state’s loss will be recovered. Moreover, since there has not been any trial, just upholding of the judgment of a CBI court, the Central investigation agency is bound to move the Supreme Court very soon. So it is not yet time to write off Lavalin case that CPM had always contended as “politically motivated”.