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Sleaze shower on Kerala rivals

Thiruvananthapuram, March 28: Exposes of sleaze have blunted the pace of the poll campaigns of the Left and the ruling Congress in Kerala, but it is the CPM that finds the disclosures more disconcerting.

A jailed hooch king confessed to state vigilance officials that a Democratic Youth Federation of India leader had asked him for money and also to arrange a popular Malayalam actress for former chief minister E.K. Nayanar’s political secretary P. Sasi, who virtually controlled the police, in return for favours.

Former liquor contractor Manichen, undergoing a life sentence in connection with hooch deaths in Kollam during the Nayanar regime, however, said he could not meet the DYFI leader’s demand.

Manichen’s confessions are part of the vigilance bureau’s chargesheet against three Left politicians and 12 government officials in the monthly payoffs case that surfaced after the hooch deaths at Kalluvathukkal in October 2000.

The politicians booked for illegal gratification are former Thiruvananthapuram CPM district secretary M. Satyanesan, former deputy Speaker Bhargavy Thankappan of the CPI and former CPM legislator Kadakampally Surendran.

Manichen also confessed that former Thiruvananthapuram mayor V. Sivankutty had demanded Rs 25 lakh as contribution for the CPM’s Kairali TV. He was ready to give Rs 10 lakh but the offer was not accepted.

In a newspaper interview, Sasi, a member of the CPM state committee, termed the charges as “a convict’s confessions, aimed at tarnishing the party”.

Surendran had confessed that he had collected the money as election fund for the CPM. Satyanesan, who had allegedly received Rs 4.27 lakh in payoffs, also proffered such an argument but the party expelled him. Similarly, the CPI refused to come to the aid of Thankappan.

Disclosures of sleaze in the Congress camp are equally damaging. Suspended general-secretary Rajmohan Unnithan had accused veteran leader K. Karunakaran’s son, Muraleedharan, for taking women workers for discussion to a small room at Indira Bhavan, the party headquarters.

Unnithan even dared Muraleedharan to take him to court. But the latter is yet to respond.

It has also been alleged that Muraleedharan had taken Rs 25 lakh from the Kollam seat candidate. Muraleedharan’s sister, Padmaja Venugopal, had reportedly tipped off Unnithan about the seat hopeful arriving with a briefcase.

Muraleedharan’s friends-turned-foes have promised to bare more as the days go by.

Such disclosures and confessions are likely to be the staple of the current poll campaign, kicking more pertinent issues to the sidelines.

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