The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kerala MLA in forgery furore

Thiruvananthapuram, Sept. 29: Kerala police have struck a blow that could unleash tremors in the state’s ruling coalition.

This evening the crime branch said it had listed Congress MLA Sobhana George as an accused in the case of fabrication of “fake police document” linking state tourism minister K.V. Thomas with a hawala racket.

The crime branch said it did suspect that the MLA had played a role in the conspiracy behind forging the document, which obviously was an effort to unseat Thomas, a Congress minister.

Sobhana, a known Karunakaran camper in the faction-ridden Congress in the state, was listed as the third accused in the investigation report filed by crime branch before chief judicial magistrate N.M. Jose, close on the heels of the arrest and remand of her personal assistant, Anil P. Srirangam.

The listing of the MLA is not the last Kerala is going to see in this case. Related political developments are bound to unroll sooner than later.

There are sections within the ruling coalition that are of the opinion that developments on this case could even bring down the government.

TV journalist Anil Nambiar who carried a story based on a “forged document” in June, has been retained as first accused and R. Jayachandran, a close aide of Sobhana, figured as the fourth accused, official sources said.

The case has been rocking the state for quite some time and had led to major internal bickering in the Congress.

Veteran leader Karunakaran has virtually been on the warpath against chief minister A.K. Antony and the rest of the government for pursuing this case so seriously.

It all started with the telecast of a story by a Malayalam channel on the basis of an allegedly forged intelligence report.

The forged report was purportedly sent by the director general of police (intelligence) to the chief minister’s office linking Thomas with a Rs 336-crore inter-state hawala racket that was being probed by Central agencies.

After denying the genuineness of the document, Antony government had entrusted investigation of the case to a special crime branch team.

Srirangam was picked up from Sobhana’s residence yesterday. He was produced before the magistrate this morning. After several hours of grilling by crime branch team he was remanded to judicial custody.

According to sources, police was in hot pursuit of Jayachandran, a former journalist, who gave the slip minutes before the police arrived at Sobhana’s residence.

With the needle of suspicion pointing to Sobhana, investigators had sought her consent for a polygraph test, which she had refused to comply with.

Reacting to her aide’s arrest, Sobhana alleged that whole “drama” was part of a move to mar her political career.

Sobhana had recently lashed out at Antony, going even to the extent of demanding that he give up the home portfolio. She had alleged that investigation in the case was not moving in the right direction.

Karunakaran wants Antony to shuffle his Cabinet and hand over the home portfolio to one of his nominees.

The state government is not consulting the party before major policy decisions, Karunakaran has alleged.

The Antony camp suspects that the 80-year-old former chief minister, in league with the CPM, is trying to topple the United Democratic Front ministry and instal a Karunakaran-led government.

His discreet recent meetings with senior CPM leader M.A. Baby and politburo member S. Ramachandra Pillai have roused suspicion.

The Marxists, eager to topple the Antony government, are willing to prop up Karunakaran, who claims the support of 26 of the 60 Congress members in the House of 140.

He also claims the support of seven members from other UDF parties. With CPM’s 40 members, the arithmetic is tempting. But Congress sources said Karunakaran only had 11 hardcore supporters.

Karunakaran had first manoeuvred to have his son anointed state unit chief (with whom he has since fallen out) and now wants to promote his daughter and other loyalists.

The chief minister today said he did not have any immediate plans to reshuffle the Cabinet, but said the prospect could not be ruled out in future. “I have not decided on a Cabinet reshuffle till this moment. But I cannot say that it would not be there in the future too,” Antony told reporters today at Ernakulam.

He refused to comment on the decision to issue showcause notice to Padmaja and Mustafa and the demand by Shobana George that the chief minister should give up the home portfolio.

Karunakaran defended his daughter, saying she had not violated party discipline. Heading a parallel union in the state electricity board did not warrant a showcause notice, he said.

The warhorse told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram that Padmaja would give a proper reply to the notice. “Let’s wait and see, what happens after that,” he said.

Asked if there was a message for him in the notice issued to his daughter, Karunakaran said he had not violated party discipline knowingly and this was why no disciplinary action had been taken against him in the past 70 years.

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