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Kerala’s tainted NCP Min runs out of options

| | Kochi | in Sunday Pioneer

Kerala Transports Minister Thomas Chandy, the only NCP minister in entire India, has expressed willingness to resign from the State Cabinet as his position has become extremely untenable following serious allegations of encroaching public land and lake, land-filling paddy fields and wetlands in violation of laws and rules and carrying out construction for own business purposes by misusing public funds.

As per reports, Chandy, NCP’s MLA from Kuttanad in Alappuzha district, has informed his party’s national and State leaderships that he did not want to continue as Minister in the face of the new developments relating to the allegations. However, the leadership asked him to wait for some more days. “There is no situation that warranted Chandy’s resignation,” said NCP’s State president TP Peethambaran on Saturday.

The resignation of Chandy – or his removal from Cabinet – has become almost unavoidable following the State Advocate General’s advice to the Government which has so far defended him that the Alappuzha District Collector’s report describing that violation of rules by him cannot be ignored and that is now up to the Government to take appropriate action against him.

Chandy, the richest Minister in the LDF Government, has run out of options also because of the stiff demand raised by the CPI, second biggest partner in the ruling front, for his resignation or expulsion. “Have no doubt. The Government will take appropriate action on the basis of the district collector’s report,” said CPI’s State secretary Kanam Rajendran on Saturday.

Saturday also saw majority of speakers at a meeting of the State committee of the CPI(M) demanding action against Chandy by pointing out the party, the LDF or its Government could not afford to create an impression of protecting Chandy though a section in the party and its Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan have been defending the NCP leader all the way. Chandy, now 70, was inducted into the Kerala Cabinet on April 1 exactly a week after senior NCP leader AK Saseendran resigned as Transports minister following the eruption of a sex scandal based on a honey-trap sting operation by a TV channel against him. Saseendran and Chandy are the only Assembly members the NCP, a minor LDF constituent, has in Kerala.

The NCP is presently thinking of replacing Chandy in the Cabinet with Saseendran once the criminal case he is facing in connection with the sex scandal is settled in the HC– which may happen as the petitioner is ready for settlement – so that it will not have to face a situation of not having a Minister in a Govt anywhere in the country.

Chief Minister Pinarayi, who had forced his own party’s central committee member EP Jayarajan to quit as Industries minister within a few days after he was accused of nepotism and made Saseendran resign within hours of the eruption of the sex scandal, had vehemently justified and defended Chandy whenever the issue came up in the Assembly.

In a 12-page report, Alappuzha District Collector TV Anupama had a few days ago told the Government that Chandy’s Water World Tourism company, running the Lake Palace Resort in Alappuzha, had committed serious violation of laws and rules pertaining to land, lake, paddy fields and wetlands through encroachments, land-filling and constructions.

Though CPI’s Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan requested the Chief Minister to initiate criminal proceedings against Chandy on the basis of the report, Pinarayi sought legal opinion over it, allegedly to buy time or to avoid taking action. At the same time, Chandy challenged the collector’s report in the High Court triggering a controversy over the appropriateness of a Minister questioning the validity of a report from the Government’s own official.

“The situation has changed altogether. Pinarayi cannot take refuge in his usual excuses – that let the court give its decision or let the final legal opinion come. Chandy has already become the symbol of political arrogance and power abuse in Kerala. The sooner the Chief Minister acts, the better,” said a Kochi-based former CPI(M) theorist.

At the same time, rumours are rife that Pinarayi may opt for a Cabinet reshuffle so that he can settle the Thomas Chandy issue without going through the embarrassment of having to force a third minister – after Jayarajan and Saseendran – resign within 18 months of his Government’s coming into existence. 




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