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Kerala govt reels under bar bribery, solar scam

Congress-led UDF government in Kerala continued to be under attack over the bar and solar scams with bribe charges being levelled against two other ministers and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, once again coming under fire.

In her deposition before the Justice Sivarajan commission probing the solar scam, prime accused Saritha S Nair on Monday alleged that it was at the insistence of a senior Congress leader close to Chandy that she had filed a sexual harassment case against party MLA A P Abdullakutty. She also told the panel that she had given a statement before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (Ernakulam) N V Raju that some people had sexually abused her.

“That’s true. I have said about it”, she said when the commission pointed out to the Magistrate’s statement given to it last year. Giving more headache to the government, Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association Working President Biju Ramesh, renewed his charge that Rs two crore had been paid to Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala when he was the KPCC President in 2012 and Rs 25 lakh to state Health Minister, V S Sivakumar, but both rejected the charge as “baseless”.

Ramesh alleged Rs 25 lakh was handed over to a personal secretary of Sivakumar at his residence, while Rs 2 crore was directly handed over to Chennithala before the Neyyatinkara assembly by-election held in early 2012.
Rejecting the charge, Chennithala said no donation was accepted without receipt by the party.

Stating that all political parties, including Congress, function by accepting donations from public, he said, “Donations are accepted in KPCC by issuing receipts. KPCC also gave its audited accounts to all constitutional bodies including Election Commission,” he said in a statement. “KPCC did not have the habit of accepting donations without issuing receipts. No one has given money to KPCC on the request of Chief Minister and other Ministers,” he added. Sivakumar also refuted the allegations by stating that no money was handed over to him or his private secretary by the bar hotelier.

He also pointed out that it was only in 2013 that the bribery charges were levelled by Biju Ramesh while the bypoll was held in early 2012. “Neither me nor my personal staff have taken any money from anyone for the elections”, the minister added. Biju had earlier levelled bribery charges against then Finance Minister K M Mani and Excise minister K Babu, that led to their resignations.

Babu returned to the cabinet today after nine days as the UDF wanted him to take back his resignation following High Court staying the vigilance court order against him. However, Mani who resigned after strong observations by the High Court against him, had said he was in no hurry to rejoin the cabinet even though UDF had wanted him also to return to Ministry. Seizing on the new developments, CPI(M) state Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan stepped up pressure demanding the resignation of Chandy.