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Rivals sniff scandal, CM cries wife

Thiruvananthapuram, Dec. 15: The sex-scam vitiated atmosphere in Kerala prompted chief minister Oommen Chandy to come out today with a public statement against veiled allegations made in a regional weekly.

Its recent report alluded to a VIP's dalliance with a Congresswoman while travelling in a second-class AC coach on Amrita Express from Thiruvananthapuram to Thrissur on March 7 this year.

Answering a question regarding the report at a cabinet briefing, Chandy said he had travelled by the train on March 7 to Thrissur. 'Yes, I was accompanied by a woman passenger. But it was my wife, Mariamma Oommen, who was on an official tour to Thrissur.'

After the train left Thiruvananthapuram station, Mariamma Oommen went to sleep while Chandy, who was feverish, preferred to wait until the next station to take medicines. In between he dozed off, leaning on the co-passenger (wife).

A woman sitting opposite raised a hue and cry. When the train reached the next station, the ticket examiner came in on the basis of her complaint. The railway official told the woman that 'we are husband and wife', Chandy said.

'Fortunately, my wife had booked a separate ticket, courtesy Canara Bank. If she had used the railway coupons eligible for an (MLA's) companion, it would have been difficult to prove the identity of the passenger,' the chief minister said. Mariamma Oommen is an officer with Canara Bank.

Chandy was then the convener of the ruling Congress-led United Democratic Front.

The report also cited a complaint by N.N. Krishnadas, a CPM MP, urging Union railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav to probe the allegations, which included the charge that the reservation chart for that night journey had gone missing.

'It's now up to you (the media) to probe the truth. Don't be lenient towards me even if there is a minor discrepancy. If I am guilty, I don't deserve to be in public service, let alone hold this office (of the chief minister),' the chief minister said.

His cabinet colleague, industry minister P.K. Kunhalikutty, is mired in a sex scam, popularly called the Kozhikode ice-cream parlour sex racket case. The woman who accused him of sexual exploitation has been levelling and withdrawing charges.

The case is pending in the high court and lower courts.

Asked whether the high standards of morality he had set for himself did not apply to his cabinet colleague, Chandy said it was a different matter.

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