Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
Official corruption is accepted as an Indian phenomenon, and every state plays its role harming the plight of the poor and underprivileged classes – these helpless people should have been allowed to take advantages of the so-called economic boom the Congress-BJP alliances have “achieved” – by promoting rampant corruption.
No political party in India- both national and regional – is above corruption while the system just pretends unaware of this essentially anti-humanity trend having been firmly rooted and settled in the country as an institution.
Corruption in God’s own country
In Kerala, a southern state, where Communists and Congress party rule in collations alternatively for decades, the rich and corporate lords have confiscated the wealth and resources in a sustained manner with active or tactful state support, making this “God’s own country” a place of land grabbers and corrupt leaders. Even little rivers and ponds have disappeared and have become the property of the rich traders.
Cricket matches keep the people busy while media diverting the public attention from real economic and social problems Keralites face by talking about “fabulous shots” and 100s by the batboys. This what national corporate media lords also do.
Congress party in Kerala, like elsewhere in the country actively promoted corruption in all walks of life, leaving almost nothing for the poor and common people. Even ration items, meant for the poor, are provided to the rich as well. The famous multi-crore ‘Solar scam’ involving the former Congress-Muslim League led UPA government under veteran Congress leader Oommen Chancy, has been in the public domain for a couple of years even during and obviously, the involved leaders still refuse to admit having done anything wrong. The people who brought the issue to the public have been at the receiving end as the government then tried to intimidate in the investigation process.
A Malayalam actress is a heroine in the multi-crore solar scandal episode enacted by the Congress government. But now some clues are available that points an accusing finger at the former CM Oommen Chandy and his Congress party. The new left government of Pinarayi Vijayan imitated steps to bring to light the facts about the solar scam.
Since the last week of September when the Solar Judicial Commission headed by Justice (Retired) G Sivarajan submitted its report on the solar scam, the writing was on the wall, in political graffiti-loving Kerala. The report had criticised the manner in which former chief minister Oommen Chandy’s office was involved in helping an alleged fraud couple — Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan — amass money by cheating investors of Rs 7 crore by promising them a supply of solar panels.
The CPM-led LDF, then in opposition, had launched an agitation following reports of Saritha’s links with the office of the chief minister. The scam turned political after two employees in Chandy’s office were removed for their alleged links with the prime accused in the case.
Oommen Chandy playing the lead role, Actress Saritha Nair was prime accused in the case wherein a fraudulent solar energy company, Team Solar, in Kerala, used two women to create political contacts with links even to the chief minister’s office, duped several influential people to the tune of Rs 70 million, by offering to make them business partners, or by offering to install solar power units for them, and receiving advance payments for the same.
On Oct 04, the CPM-led LDF government in Kerala decided to seek legal opinion on a report filed by the judicial commission that probed the multi-crore solar scam. The cabinet resolved to elicit the opinion of the State Advocate General and Prosecution Director-General on the report submitted by a commission headed by Justice (ret) G Sivarajan on 26 September, an official release said. The next step on the report would be taken only after getting the legal opinion, and the same would also be placed in the cabinet, the release said.
The Kerala government decided to initiate a criminal and vigilance probe against former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and others in the Rs 7 million Solar Scam case. Chandy’s Cabinet colleagues Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, Aryadan Mohammed and former Congress legislators Thampanoor Ravi and Benny Behanan would also be probed in the scam that surfaced in 2013.
The decision was announced by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan after the weekly Cabinet meeting based on the recommendations of the solar scam commission report submitted by Justice (Retd) G Sivarajan in September. The Vijayan government also decided to register a criminal case against all those whose names had appeared in a letter written by Saritha Nair in which she had complained of sexual exploitation.
The inquiry commission was appointed by the previous Oommen Chandy government after allegations of fraud worth crores of rupees were made against prime accused Saritha Nair and her accomplice Biju Radhakrishnan. The duo allegedly duped people by offering solar panel solutions through advanced payments and used the names of political higher-ups, including that of former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, to canvas business.
Set up in October 2013, the commission had held 353 sittings, examined 214 witnesses and 972 documents and submitted to the government a comprehensive report on the solar scam submitted its report on October 11. Several politicians, including the chief minister Oommen Chandy, were among those examined by the commission. The Sivarajan Commission recommended to the government registering a case against the then top police officers who probed the case. A new special investigation team led by Director General of Police Rajesh Diwan has been set upon Oct 11to investigate the cases.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has informed the state cabinet about the receipt of the commission report of 1,073 pages. Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan has also ordered a criminal case to be registered against former home minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan as well, for allegedly helping Chandy wriggle out of the case by influencing police officials, among others. Cases are also to be filed against the officers allegedly involved.
The multi-crore solar scandal episode had kept Chandy under the spotlight since 2013 when it first exploded in his face. Three staff members in the then chief minister’s office were found to have frequent contacts with Malayalam actress Saritha Nair, and later Chandy had to move them out of his office under severe political pressure from a different direction, including from within the alliance.
With allegations that several powerful UDF politicians not only got their palms greased with ready cash but also had sexual relations with Sarithaa, the solar scam case captured Kerala’s imagination for it combined politics of the powerful with money, sex and sleaze.
The multi-crore solar scam also played its “legitimate” part in Chandy’s defeat in the 2016 Kerala Assembly polls as the UDF government became unpopular even as it claims a long list of “achievements” including the new Kaliyakkavila-Karamana high way which considerably reduced the traffic jam and improved vehicular movements.
And perhaps Kerala Chief Minister Vijayan’s decision to file a vigilance case against Chandy on October 11 was on expected lines. For, it helps the ruling Left Front led by CPM hit several birds with one stone. Kerala government has also ordered a vigilance probe against former chief minister Oommen Chandy.
Politics, money, sex – the multifaceted phenomenon!
With the Solar Commission taking the position that getting sexual favors will be treated as a case of bribery, several prominent leaders whose names figure in Nair’s deposition before the Commission, will come under the radar.
CM Vijayan has said that cases of sexual assault will be registered against the former ministers and even MPs and MLAs. But the biggest name to have been impacted is Chandy.
Former CM and the hero of the solar episode, Oommen Chandy had maintained that the charges against him and his office were “politically motivated” and had denied any wrongdoing.
Saritha Nair had given the names in a “strictly confidential” sealed cover in February 2016, stating dramatically that this is the “truth about my illicit relations with politicians.” She had told the media that she had the freedom to walk into Chandy’s home anytime. “I was that close,” she had claimed, which the chief minister had rubbished. She had also claimed that hundreds of phone calls were made between her and Chandy’s staff, both in Kerala and in Delhi.
Records showed that in 2012-13, Nair and Thomas Kuruvilla (Chandy’s aide in New Delhi) had exchanged 205 telephonic calls. Chandy’s gunman Salim Raj and Nair had spoken 416 times during the same period, clearly indicating her infiltration into Chandy’s official space. Nair had also alleged that she paid a bribe of Rs 1.9 crore to Chandy through Kuruvilla.
Chandy, despite his loss in the 2016 Assembly elections, remains the tallest Congress leader in Kerala. He finds himself in a tight spot because he was the one who had instituted the probe claiming he will prove his innocence. Now with the commission indicting him, if Chandy cries political witchhunt, it will not be convincing.
Chandy and UDF coalition perhaps thought they would return to power with a “historic win” and get the case quashed quickly. But that was not to be, and the Left parties thrashed the UDF baldy and came back to power as people do not offer another easy chance to any ruling collation and replace it with the other team. Now they chose the CPM led LDF team.
The case will certainly push all powerful Chandy to the backfoot and reduce his power to demand posts for his followers in the Kerala Congress apparatus. For the last one year, he has been resisting pressure to move out of Kerala and go national where his party is not in good shape.
Now, with this vigilance case, Chandy for the sake of his political survival might be forced to follow in his mentor AK Antony’s footsteps and take the flight out of Thiruvananthapuram until the storm gets settled.
That would be music to the ears of several Congress leaders in Kerala, especially the Indira faction led by Ramesh Chennithala who has the considerable support of the Congressmen. For the record though, Chennithala has also called the case against the UDF leaders “politically motivated.”
A former chief minister coming under the cloud is dirt on the Congress hand. Congress Vice President Rahul has asked the Congresspeople in the state to be united. Even as different groups play their internal politics mixed with cash, Congress will find it difficult to play down the fact that a large number of its leaders have found their reputation sullied regarding both financial as well as moral corruption.
CM Vijayan is also paying Chandy back in his coin. In the last cabinet meeting in 2006, just two months before Kerala went to polls that year, then chief minister Chandy had ordered a CBI probe into the SNC Lavalin case in connection with lapses in awarding contracts for the renovation of three hydroelectric power projects to the Canadian company when Vijayan was power minister in the 90s. It was only this year that the high court gave Vijayan a clean chit in the case.
Finally, more than a year after its electoral loss, Congress in Kerala is facing an acid test. In politically aware Kerala, perception matters and at a time when Vijayan has taken on the role of protecting Malayalee pride by taking on BJP, the solar scam threatens to eclipse Chandy and company from Kerala’s political system.
The UDF-Congress position in the state keeps diminishing, as evident from the by-poll results in the just concluded Vengara constituency where When its candidate, K N A Khader of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has managed to retain the seat for the party in less margin of votes than the previous one.
Left strong, Congress waning, BJP confused.
Emerging political scenario is encouraging for the Left parties as they are apparently liked by the people, but the Congress is on the run while BJP had lost its momentum gained during the assembly when it won first ever seat in Kerala assembly and hoped to win more and more and eventually form a saffron government as it did in Karnataka. The by-poll in Kerala has made the Hindutva forces to know that Kerala Is not Karnataka.
Khader defeated his rival P P Basheer of CPI (M) with a margin of 23,310 votes. While the veteran leader of IUML garnered 65227 votes, his CPI (M) counterpart managed 41,917 who was followed by SDPI’s KC Naseer at 3rd spot with 8,658 votes. However, NDA slipped to 4th spot as BJP candidate K J Jayachandran Master managed to get only 5728 votes and to lose the deposit.
The results show the upsurge or the Pinarai Vijayan government while shaking situation for the Congress-led USF, where BJP, which has recently won assembly seat and is making al out efforts with BJP president Amit Shah and his Airbus team worked for the party victory, but it failed miserably and in a pathetic situation for the saffron party that ruled India. BJP too served a massive setback as K J Jayachandran lost their vote share as compared to 2016 general assembly election. While P T Ali Haji managed to bag 7,055 votes for the saffron party in 2016, this time around the vote share dipped by 1,327 votes to 5,728.
The falloff BJP is so deep that CM Vijayan asked the BJP and Modi to wind up their hate Hindutva politics in the state as people have rejected their venom mixed rhetoric.
Despite the much-needed victory albeit by a small margin, things are not looking good for UDF as a result shows descent in margin from 38,057 in 2016 general election to 23,310. The margin dropped by 14, 747 at a time when the total votes polled rose from 1,20,295 in 2016 to 1,22,623 this time.
The result is expected to create more ripples in the party as a result comes at a time when the national leadership is carrying out a full-fledged campaign against the ruling left front in Kerala.
Though CPI (M) will have to settle for the second spot, they have more reasons to cheer than any other party. They have made significant inroads into the green bastion of IUML. For the first time in the history of Vengara constituency, the runner-up has garnered more votes than the lead margin of the winner. Communist P P basher increased the vote share for the left party from 34,124 in 2016 to 41,917 this time, a spike of 7,793 votes.
Social Democratic Party of India (SDPA), the political umbrella of the now dominant Popular Front of Muslim groups, bettered their performance from last time, as they stepped up from 4th of 3rd position with 8,648 votes. SDPA has been improving its vote tallies in Kerala and elsewhere in the country.
The election results have already kicked off allegations and counter allegations between parties in the state. The CPI(M) highlights their increase in vote share in the green bastion.
BJP tries to defend their pathetic performance by charging Jihadi allegations against both LDF and UDF as a pure political gimmick to encourage the RSS/BJP people not to lose hopes even in the red state.
India is among the worst and most corrupt nations. It is not only in Kerala, but every state in the country has the problem of bribery and corruption.
Unfortunately corruption is not treated in India as serious crimes at par with murders and as a result, corruption has gone deep into Indian conscience as an essential component of the life of people and nation. Corrupt leaders are not punished for their crimes as most of the ruling leaders are also corrupt. The state does not want to harm the corrupt people “unnecessarily, ” and the judiciary is unable to put an end to corruption in the country.
So, everybody is free to loot the nation as much as they can.
Sadly, today Congress party, which had successfully led the Indian freedom struggle for years and decades and eventually obtained independence from Britain in order possibly to occupy neighboring Jammu Kashmir, among other such agendas quickly, is the most corrupt political outfit in the country polluting politics and Indian system and so much so, Congress party has become synonymous with corruption, bribery, and hidden agenda.
It is because of rampant corruption Indian people ousted the Congress government in 2014 but replaced it with a right-wing Hindutva communal outfit that was in fact nurtured by the Congress party to create a Hindu nation and also to threaten the Muslim community and get their votes, for an easy win.
Much was being made of Vijayan’s decision to announce the probe on the day Vengara in Kerala’s Malappuram district went to polls. This is a Muslim League seat, belonging to the larger UDF kitty. But Vijayan’s sights are set on inflicting much greater damage to Congress in Kerala, than just in the Muslim League stronghold Vengara which, however, the ML won with a lesser margin this time.
Oommen Chandy is very sure that nothing would happen to h mans he would be safe, after a little storm to discredit him. He knows since Congress and Communist party are national ones the national leaders in New Delhi would sort out the issue and wind up his case in due course As such when compromises are made in the capitals no corrupt person can be punished, and at times a few of them are arrested as a show and later the case is dead.
It will be interesting to watch how this impacts the Congress-CPM ‘friendship’ in national politics. Sonia/Rahul Gandhi and Sitaram Yechury have found themselves on the same side in their fight against BJP, but the Kerala battle threatens to expose the fault lines.
Interestingly, the Left parties that fought the Congress domination tooth and nail for decade shave now become allies of the corrupt congress party and its legacy. Possibly the Leftists considered the BJP more harmful than the weakened Congress party and cooperated with it during the Congress-led “profited” UPA reign.
Moreover, both CPM and Congress have lost West Bengal to a promising newcomer Ms. Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and election after elections she is gaining the trust of the Bengalis. This poor fate has forced the Communists who ruled the states for several terms non-stop, to share their “feelings” with the Congress high command. Communists seem to have lost their way.
Apparently, the Leftists, instead of forging a non-Congress and non-BJP alliance, are trying to help the Congress to regain its glory and government.
Indeed, as the decisions of the national parties like Congress, BJP and CPM are taken in New Delhi, Oommen Chancy can only hope to be safe and free of sola-Saritha troubles!