The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Book bomb ticks on Karunakaran

Thiruvananthapuram, Sept. 3: A former minister in the A.K. Antony cabinet has disclosed that his family was nearly driven to suicide after an attempt to implicate him in a hawala case at the behest of his former mentor K. Karunakaran.

The revelation is part of an 11-chapter book being written by former tourism minister K.V. Thomas.

In an interview to a TV channel today, Thomas said when his wife Shirley pleaded with Karunakaran to spare her husband, he said: “I’ll finish him off.”

Thomas’s disclosure, at best an allegation now, is a virtual bombshell and likely to become a hot topic as Kerala gets ready for the civic elections on September 24 and 26.

Thomas alleges that Karunakaran’s prot'g' Sobhana George, an MLA, had fabricated a police intelligence document implicating him in the Rs 336-crore hawala deal in 2002. A TV channel had unwittingly carried the item, taking the police document to be genuine.

“Those were the days when my political career hung in a balance,” said Thomas, who has faced serious charges of colluding with a French spy in mapping the naval facilities at Kochi.

However, then chief minister Antony produced the fabricated document in the Assembly and asserted that the intelligence dossiers did not have any correspondence, as alleged, linking his minister to the hawala scam.

Shobhana and several of her aides were arrested in connection with the case and the police are reportedly planning to file the chargesheet soon.

In his book, Thomas, who has been cleared of all charges, traces Karunakaran’s career, how he started off as an anti-communist and ended up, at 87, as a Left ally.

Thomas believes the fabrication could not have taken place without a nod from Karunakaran. “At least, he must have been in the know of things. He turned against me because I refused to join the core group of ministers to backstab Antony. Former ministers T.M. Jacob and R. Balakrishna Pillai were part of the core group.”

Karunakaran was furious for another reason, Thomas says. His daughter Padmaja Venugopal, chairperson of Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, started dictating terms and wanted to convert the tourism department into her fief. “As tourism minister, I did not allow this.”

“The conspirators had never thought that the then chief minister would table the original intelligence document in the Assembly. They thought Antony would order a judicial inquiry into the charge and ask Thomas to step down,” the book says.

Thomas argues that the root cause of the split in the Congress was the campaign by chief minister Oommen Chandy, then a lieutenant of Antony, against Karunakaran in the Isro spying case.

“I personally believe that the campaign was wrong. Karunakaran would not have quit the party if his colleagues had not used the Isro case against him,” Thomas said.

Thomas said he tried to be as objective as possible while chronicling the tumultuous days. “I have not allowed myself to be carried away by prejudices and subjectivity. The book is an objective evaluation of Karunakaran’s political life from my point of view,” he said.

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