Kerala minister resigns over lewd talk with woman

Drama unfolds two weeks ahead of bypoll

Kerala minister resigns over lewd talk with woman
The CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala suffered an embarrassing poll-season setback on Sunday as Transport Minister A K Saseendran resigned following allegations of misconduct with an unidentified woman during a telephonic conversation. An audio clip reportedly containing the voice of Saseendran, a senior leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), was released by a newly launched television news channel.

The leaked clip, which has a man speaking in a sexually explicit manner, doesn’t have the voice of the woman. The channel reported that the “complainant” had approached 71-year-old Saseendran, seeking official help. Saseendran is the second minister in the LDF government to have stepped down in the wake of controversies, before it completes a year in office.

In October last year, minister for industries and sports E P Jayarajan had resigned in the wake of allegations of nepotism in the appointment of his and other CPM leaders’ relatives to key positions in public sector undertakings. Saseendran’s resignation, a few hours after the audio clip went public, did surprise some, also considering that there was no case or a formal complaint registered against him.

At a media briefing in Kozhikode to announce his decision, Saseendran maintained that the allegations were baseless, but evaded pointed questions on whether the voice in the clip was his or not. He said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had not sought his resignation. “I’m not going into the merit of the case. The resignation is not an admission of guilt; I’m doing it to safeguard the credentials of the Front and the government,” he said. He refused to comment on a conspiracy.

Saseendran said he was ready to face investigation by any agency. The resignation carries political import as it comes two weeks ahead of the byelection to the Malappuram Lok Sabha constituency. NCP leaders said the party was not looking at an immediate replacement in the Cabinet.

“Two ministers have resigned in connection with corruption and sexual allegations. The gap between LDF’s promises and performance has been exposed,” Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee interim president M M Hassan said. Saseendran, an MLA from Elathur in Kozhikode district, started his political career with the student and youth wings of the Congress party before moving to the NCP.
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