Chandy, your tale is telling now

It is ironical that the words of a woman, who is known to be a swindler, has spent time in jail and is facing over 30 criminal cases in courts, sound more convincing and credible than the assertions of innocence of the chief minister of a state, who has a record of 50 years of public life. That is as much an indication of the fallen standards of public life as of the poor moral credentials of the politician. The charges levelled against Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy by Saritha Nair, an accused in the state’s long-running solar scam, are too serious and specific to be dismissed as part of a conspiracy to defame the UDF government, as Chandy and the Congress leadership have done. The Kerala High Court has stayed a vigilance court’s order to file an FIR against the chief minister and another minister on the basis of the charges made by Saritha Nair. But that is only temporary relief based on technicalities, and does not take away from the substance of the charges.

The solar scandal is about the swindling of many investors by Saritha and her former partner Biju Radhakrishnan, who flaunted their proximity to politicians including the chief minister. Last week, Saritha deposed  before the judicial commission which is probing the scandal, and claimed that she had paid a bribe of Rs 1.9 crore to the chief minister.

The names of another minister and the chief minister’s son were also mentioned. The chief minister had earlier deposed before the commission for many hours. While his statement had loose ends and he changed some of his earlier statements made in public, Saritha’s charges were specific and detailed. The chief minister countered them with generalities, a bland claim that truth will finally prevail, and a conspiracy theory. There was no credible rebuttal.

The government set up the commission under duress and has not been very supportive of it, though it claims much credit for it. It has tried to manipulate the investigation in the past
and to influence witnesses and others. A leaked transcript of a conversation has shown a confidante of the chief minister tutoring Saritha how to depose before the commission and telling her not to contradict him. The impact of all this is telling. Though the chief minister has got a legal reprieve, he stands morally and politically indicted. The cynicism and dishonesty in his defence and explanations are all too clear. What emerges is a politics of survival by any means and by any argument. It is not good for the state and the country.

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