Scandals from past jolt Kerala opposition (Letter from Kerala)By Sanu George, IANS
Sunday, February 13, 2011
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM - Kerala’s opposition United Democratic Front (UDF), led by the Congress, has got a rude jolt as old scandals have come back to haunt it, causing much agony after its superlative comeback in the local bodies polls last year.
Four old cases in which top opposition leaders are alleged to be involved have resurfaced even as the state is set to hold assembly elections this year.
Top UDF leader and Kerala Congress (B) supremo R. Balakrishnan Pillai is all set to undergo a one-year jail term for a two decade-old corruption case related to the time when he was state power minister in the mid-1980s.
Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, in his personal capacity, took the case to the apex court after the UDF leader was exonerated by the Kerala High Court in 2004. The Supreme Court Thursday convicted Pillai.
Prior to this came the infamous early-1990s Kozhikode ice cream sex scandal involving former state industries minister P.K. Kunhalikutty. The alleged sex racket used an ice cream parlour in Kozhikode as its base, giving the scandal its name.
Kunhalikutty, a top Indian Union Muslim League leader, was at the receiving end when his close relative K.A. Rauf disclosed early this month that he influenced the witness and two judges in the case, and was not even named an accused.
Rauf alleged that former judges Narayana Kurup and K. Thankappan were instrumental in making the case favourable for the leader.
Achuthanandan immediately asked the home department to re-investigate the case. He appointed top police official Vinson M. Paul to lead the team. If reports are to be believed, Kunhalikutty is expected to be called for an interrogation soon.
Yet another case resurfaced after the apex court last week directed the production of all the reports in a case in which the Kerala High Court had in 2008 exonerated then state irrigation minister T.M. Jacob of the Kerala Congress-Jacob.
In this case too, it was under the initiative of Achuthanandan that the case was taken up in the apex court.
The latest case that made a backdoor entry was the palm oil import case of 1991 in which present Central Vigilance Commissioner P.J. Thomas is an accused.
One of the accused, T.H. Mustafa, the then food minister and senior Congress leader, in a discharge petition filed in the Vigilance Court here Friday, said the prosecution rightly did not find fault with then finance minister and present Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy but unjustly arrayed him as an accused.
Chandy said: “Facts are being twisted by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and if they say I am an accused then what prevented the then E.K. Nayanar government from including me as an accused and what was the Achuthanandan government doing till now?”
“People in the state are well aware of how things in the state are moving ahead. We the UDF have no worries and are fully confident of the outcome of the assembly polls that are to take place very soon,” Chandy said.
The mood in the UDF was upbeat late last year when it made a remarkable comeback and won two of the five corporations and edged past the Left at the municipalities, district panchayats, block levels and at the gram panchayat levels at the local bodies poll.
Their confidence got a further boost after Chandy completed a state-wide march last week and collected 10 million signatures from people against the Achuthanandan government and submitted them to the governor.
However, the mood in the Achuthanandan government too is upbeat with all the unexpected happenings in the UDF camp.
(Sanu George can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)