Solar storm-hit Cong huddle for defence

| | Kochi

Embarrassed by the Vigilance probe and criminal cases ordered by the Kerala Government against top leaders including former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his senior colleagues over the infamous solar scam, the Congress high command has ordered State leaders to reach Delhi in order to discuss the issue that has pushed the party into a crisis and prepare strategies of self-defence.

The national leadership has also put a gag order on the State’s functionaries asking them to refrain from making comments publicly on this issue and party affairs as voices of protest began to come up from middle-level leaders like young MLA VT Balaram against the ‘politics of compromise and adjustment’ the top leaders had allegedly been playing with the CPI(M).

The leaders who have been called to Delhi by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi are — Oommen Chandy, Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala, State Congress president MM Hassan and senior leader VM Sudheeran. The State leaders will hold discussions with Gandhi on Friday, according to sources.

Though the purpose of the scheduled meeting in Delhi is said to be to discuss organisational matters, the probe and cases ordered against Chandy and others in the solar scam will figure prominently in the talks, say sources. Chennithala, who arrived in Delhi on Thursday, has already held discussions with Congress Working Committee member AK Antony.

Rahul Gandhi had instructed Mukul Wasnik, party secretary in charge of Kerala affairs, to submit a report to him immediately after the CPI(M)-led LDF Government ordered Vigilance probe and criminal cases against Chandy and others in the solar scam on Wednesday. Wasnik and Antony also will participate in the discussions on Friday.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had the other day announced his Cabinet’s decision to initiate a Vigilance probe against Chandy and some of his colleagues in his 2011-16 Government under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act and criminal cases for serious charges including sexual assault in the solar scam that had erupted in June, 2013 when he was Chief Minister.

The investigations were ordered on the basis of the findings of a judicial commission that had looked into the scam and the legal advice the Government had received. Apart from Chandy, senior Congress leaders Aryadan Muhammad, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, several former Ministers, MLAs police officials would be facing probe, as per the order.

The commission, according to the Chief Minister, had found that then Chief Minister Chandy had received large sums of money as bribe directly and through his aides from con woman Saritha S Nair, prime accused in the scam-related case promising her help for developing the business of her solar power company, Kochi-based Team Solar Energy Solutions.

According to Pinarayi, criminal cases for sexual assault, rape and outraging woman’s modesty (of Saritha Nair) would be initiated against 11 persons including Chandy, Aryadan, former Ministers AP Anil Kumar, Adoor Prakash, KC Venugopal MP, AP Abdullakutty (all of Congress), Jose K Mani MP of the Kerala Congress (M) and ADGP K Padmakumar.

The Congress and the Opposition UDF it leads have accused the LDF regime of attempts at political score-settling using the solar scam judicial panel report but the development has shaken the leadership to the core because of its possible political fallouts. The development is sure to have serious repercussions in the internal politics of the State’s group-ridden Congress party.

According to observers, the Congress cannot ignore the developments in Kerala as a simple State matter especially at a time when the leadership — particularly Rahul Gandhi —has embarked on a campaign against the BJP over the alleged irregularities connected to a company of Jay Shah, son of that party’s president Amit Shah.

The Congress high command is apprehensive of the possibility of the BJP making the solar scam and the current developments over it a subject of discussion nationally, say sources. The meeting in Delhi on Friday will try to chalk out an effective strategy to counter the LDF’s attack against Congress leaders over the solar scam and forestall possible BJP attack.

On Thursday, the Opposition UDF gave notice for breach of privilege against Chief Minister Pinarayi for disclosing parts of the report of the solar scam judicial commission — while announcing the probe — before tabling the report in the Assembly even as Chandy approached the State Chief Secretary for a copy of the commission’s report as per provisions of the RTI Act. 



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