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November 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.  Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       November 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.   Happy Diwali to all our subscribers and Distributors       
Issue:Sep' 2017


Congress gasping for breath in Kerala

Santosh Kumar

Oommen Chandy Adeathly blow has been dealt to the Congress party in Kerala with the ruling Left Front government ordering vigilance and criminal cases against former chief minister Oommen Chandy and a host of his colleagues in the erstwhile United Democratic Front government in connection with the multi-crore solar scam. The decision comes in the wake of the report submitted by the Justice Sivarajan Commission which probed the scandal that rocked the Chandy government and finally led to its downfall in last May's Assembly elections.
The commission has also recommended registering cases against some top police officers who are accused of sabotaging the inquiry into the scandal.

Saritha Nair A new special investigation team led by a DGP will now probe the case. Incidentally, the commission was set up by the Chandy government following a state-wide uproar over revelations of corruption and sexual exploitation levelled by Saritha S Nair, the protagonist of the scam. This is also perhaps the first time in the country that a former chief minister has been accused of sexual abuse. Other than tearing apart political equations in Kerala, this drastic move against a whole bunch of Congress leaders is bound to have its ramifications in national politics, especially at a time when the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has launched an allout attack against BJP national president Amit Shah's son's alleged involvement in financial irregularities.
It was in June 2013 that Saritha Nair the then director of Team Solar, a leading company at that time specialising in setting up solar panels, heaters and solar powered lights, and her then husband Biju Radhakrishnan were arrested for duping an NRI client of Rs 40 lakhs. Her arrest and the subsequent queue of political bigwigs lining in front of her cell opened the floodgates of sleaze and bribery dragging in staff of the chief minister's office, four ministers and Congress MLAs.

Biju Radhakrishnan Chandy at first tried to play down his involvement with Saritha even claiming that he had never met her nor had any business links with her solar company. However, this was proved to be a lie when one of the cheated clients revealed that it was Oommen Chandy himself who had introduced Saritha to him.
As the Congress struggled to stave off Saritha and Biju, more uncomfortable questions were raised within and outside the Assembly. The antecedents of Saritha and the murder of Biju Radhakrishnan's first wife were dug up. By August 2013, the demand for Oommen Chandy's resignation gathered full steam. The then opposition CPM launched a grand indefinite siege on the State Secretariat. However, this was withdrawn overnight with the BJP crying foul.
Amidst rumours of an understanding with the UDF and the LDF, better known as adjustment politics in the state, the government announced setting up of the Sivarajan Commission to probe the scandal. Even then Chandy kept on harping on his innocence, insisting that he has not done anything wrong or that the state exchequer suffered losses due to the scam.
A hurt Congress has vowed to deal with the situation legally and politically. Allegations of bribery can be easily challenged in a court of law, but it will be difficult to deal with charges of sexual assault. Politically, the party has already opened the war front saying the Left Front is trying to frame party leaders by selectively picking up the findings of the commission.
That the government has not put the commission report in the public domain is interesting. It has now only come out with the action taken report. Unless and until the findings are placed in the Assembly, it is difficult to pronounce whether all the Congress leaders are guilty or not. But till the investigations are completed, which would normally take at least a couple of years, all these leaders will remain in the shadow of suspicion, not a good omen for the party which is in the process of undertaking organisational changes.

Pinarayi Vijayan Oommen Chandy is a main contender for the post of party president in the state. So are some of the other accused. It will also affect the composition of the UDF which is on weak ground ever since KM Mani walked out of it with his Kerala Congress.

Prakash Karat The findings will sharpen the divide in the CPM too. Its general secretary Sitaram Yechury and the Bengal faction are in favour of an alliance with Congress to take on the BJP in the next general elections. But the Kerala unit led by Pinarayi Vijayan and supported by former general secretary Prakash Karat are dead against such a move.
The state BJP has all along been sticking to the point that UDF and LDF are playing adjustment politics. Even now the party, which stands to gain out of this political scandal, believes that in the end nothing will happen to the accused. There is every reason to believe that all this is just a ploy by LDF to fool the public and divert the attention from its own failures.
It is worth noting that one Congress MLA has come out with a statement that the party has been made to pay for its own folly of letting top CPM leaders off the hook in the sensational TP Chandrashekharan murder case. It is public knowledge that while the UDF government arrested all those who were involved in the gruesome murder of the Marxist dissident, it simply did not bother to track down the conspirators.
The CPM has now breached that understanding which the Congress considers an act of treachery.