Kerala govt slams oppn for indecision on bar bribe probe

Kerala govt slams oppn for indecision on bar bribe probe

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government on Tuesday countered bribery allegations against Finance Minister K M Mani and slammed the opposition for being “divided” on what kind of probe should be conducted.

While Leader of the Opposition V S Achuthanandan stuck to his demand for a CBI probe into the allegations, an “official” faction of his party, the CPM, has pitched for an investigation monitored by a court instead.

Biju Ramesh, working president of the Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association, had alleged that Mani – a veteran leader of the Kerala Congress (M) that is a powerful UDF constituent – had demanded Rs 5 crore to revoke a ban on substandard bars. Ramesh said bar owners had handed over Rs 1 crore to the minister.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said Achuthanandan had gone back on his original demand for a Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau (VACB) probe. On Tuesday, the state government constituted a team of VACB officials under Superintendent of Police M Rajmohan to initiate a preliminary verification and a report is expected within three months.

“Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala had ordered a preliminary inquiry based on a letter to the VACB director sent by the opposition leader. By demanding a CBI investigation now, he is contradicting himself,” Chandy told reporters in Kannur.

Achuthanandan responded by slamming the state leadership and reiterating his demand for a CBI probe.

The veteran CPM leader’s demand for a CBI probe had met a cold response within his own party and state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan even went public with his apprehension about the CBI’s credentials.

The CPM’s state secretariat will meet on Wednesday to formulate a consensus on the choice of the investigating authority . The CPI, meanwhile, has called for a judicial probe into the allegations.

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