Kerala Excise Minister withdraws resignation

Kerala Excise Minister withdraws resignation
Senior Congress leader and bar bribery scam accused K Babu on Saturday withdrew his resignation after a meeting of the Congress-led ruling coalition decided against accepting his offer to step down as excise minister in the wake of a “favourable” court ruling.

The United Democratic Front (UDF) also decided in favour of reinstating Kerala Congress (M) veteran K M Mani who had stepped down as the finance minister over bar bribery allegations. Mani said he would take a decision later.

Babu had handed over his resignation to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on January 23 after a vigilance court in Thrissur ordered the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) to register a case against him. Chandy, however, did not resign.

The UDF’s backing for Babu comes in the wake of a high court order which stayed, for two months, the lower court’s order. “I did not want a comeback but I’m obliged to go with the decision of the party leadership and the UDF. Under the circumstances, I’ve been forced to withdraw my resignation,” Babu told reporters in Kochi.

Mani thanked the UDF leadership but said he was in no “hurry” to return to the Cabinet. “This is an important political decision to make. I’ll discuss the issue within the party and take a suitable decision,” he said.

Chandy himself, under fire after serious allegations of bribery made by solar fraud accused Saritha S Nair, is staying in office by citing a high court ruling which stayed the vigilance court’s order for a probe against him. With barely three months left for the government’s term to end, Mani will be caught between two choices – come back or keep off power citing “moral grounds”. His reported plan for a meeting with BJP national president Amit Shah has also triggered conspiracy theories on pressure tactics.

Mani stepped down as finance minister in November last year. The VACB has since given a clean chit to him amid suspicions on authenticity of the probe. Babu is facing the charge of accepting Rs 50 lakh as bribe from bar owner Biju Ramesh in return for favourable decisions in renewal of bar licences.

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