Solar eclipse threat to CM - Kerala crisis deepens

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 9.07.13
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Thiruvananthapuram, July 8: A solar scandal looked set tonight to eclipse the reign of Kerala chief minister and Congress veteran Oommen Chandy after a complainant contradicted the leader’s statement in the Assembly.

The crisis snowballed a few hours after the chief minister told the House that the only time he had met the complainant, Sreedharan Nair, was when representatives of quarry owners called on him.

Sreedharan had accused Saritha S. Nair (no relation to the complainant), one of the key accused in the solar scandal in which investors were duped, of cheating him.

Sreedharan, a quarry owner, told news channel Reporter TV tonight that he knew Saritha as Lekshmi Nair and he had met Chandy in her company in the chief minister’s office on July 9, last year.

This was the same date that was cited by an Opposition leader in the House earlier in the day, to which the chief minister said he did not meet Saritha.

Sreedharan said Chandy offered all help and gave him the confidence to go ahead with the business deal with her. He added that it was on the chief minister’s assurance that he gave Rs 40 lakh to Saritha in three cheques for installing solar panels in his industrial unit.

The claims have the potential to deal a body blow to Chandy, a respected politician in the state till the scandal broke, especially since Sreedharan is a Congress sympathiser. However, it is not clear if Sreedharan belongs to any “group” in the notoriously faction-ridden party in the state.

Soon after Sreedharan went on air, senior ministers went into a huddle at Cliff House, the chief minister’s residence. At least one march seeking Chandy’s help also hit the street at night.

The meeting at the chief minister’s house concluded after midnight. The Congress said it would stand by Chandy and take on the “CPM conspiracy” politically.

Sreedharan claimed that members of the Congress party had met him to iron out a settlement by compensating his loss. “I was willing but put forth the condition that the money should not be black money,” he told the channel. The claim is being interpreted as indirect charge that the Congress leaders had offered black money to the businessman.

The Opposition was quick to pounce. “The chief minister has no moral right to continue in office. He should quit forthwith,” CPM leader Thomas Isaac said. Isaac had asked Chandy in the Assembly whether he had seen Saritha on July 9, 2012. Chandy had replied in the negative.

The Congress termed it a “diabolic conspiracy”. “The people of Kerala will never believe Sreedharan Nair’s claims. He is acting under pressure,” legislator T.N. Prathapan said, without specifying who was exerting the alleged pressure.