T Satisan, Kochi
Solar energy, under normal circumstances, is a solace for an energy-thirsty people. But, in Kerala it is the other way around. One lady and her husband have cheated numerous people by collecting money from them against hollow promises of providing them with equipments of solar energy including windmills. Almost all complainants have lost amounts of Rs 40 lakhs or above. Some are complaining about losing Rs 1.5 crore, etc. When the complaints against Saritha Nair and her hubby Biju Radhakrishnan, self styled Dr RB Nair, IPS, came before the police, it is revealed that both of them were getting wholehearted support from the personal staff of Kerala’s Congress CM Oommen Chandy, the trusted lieutenant of Defence Minister AK Antony. The preliminary enquiry held by ADGP TP Senkumar exposed that Saritha had had several phone conversations with Tenny Joppan, Salim Raj and Jikku, the personal staff members of Oomen Chandy. The irony is CM does not have his own mobile phone. When he is on tour, he is contactable always on the mobile phones of his personal staff. Therefore, CPM-led opposition demands for Chandy’s resignation. Their demand is logical. That is, since CM does not have his own mobile phone and he is always depending on the mobile phones of his personal staff, how can CM justify and claim himself that he has never spoken to Saritha on phone. When the allegations became the ‘talk of the state’ CM has removed the controversial personal staff members from service.
In the meantime, it is alleged that Biju Radhakrishnan had met CM even when he was the accused in murder case pertaining to the mysterious death of his former wife Reshmi. Even though CM claims that when Biju came to see him he was not booked in the case, opposition and ordinary people consider it as nothing but an alibi. But, Biju’s lawyer Husker told the media that his client met CM to complain to him about the relation his wife Sarita maintained with Ganeshkumar, the controversial former minister who had to resign from Chandy’s Cabinet recently in the wake of his shameful dispute with his doctor wife. Now, Ganesh and Dr. Yamini Thankachi have approached family court for regularising their divorce.
Meanwhile, Opposition and some media came with another allegation that Sarita had met CM in the high security premises of Vigyan Bhavan in Delhi. CM has not admitted it so far. Anyway, Kerala Assembly is continuously rocked and no proceedings are taking place there since the last more than a couple of weeks. Opposition is for the blood of Chandy. But, CM has taken firm stand that hundreds of people visit him everyday for several matters. So, his resignation is out of question. He still has not reacted to the statement of Adv. Husker that CM had given recommendation letters to Sarita and she had used it as a credential to canvass people and cheat them.
Controversial Government Chief Whip PC George says that Sarita and Biju might have cheated the people for more than Rs 10,000 crore in the name of solar panels and windmills. He adds that cheating of this dimension cannot be managed by a couple alone but big shots might be behind the scene.
An interesting political development is, unlike previous occasions, Congress, CM’s own party and the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) is not so enthusiastic in saving his skin this time. His rival “I Group” led by KPCC president Ramesh Chennitha is silent. CM’s own “A Group” is giving a lukewarm support. Veteran Congress leader VM Sudheeran has not opened up. Vayalar Ravi told media that CM should be careful in the selection of personal staff. AK Antony, CM’s patriarchal mentor says, he would tell his opinion after the completion of the enquiry. Usually, whenever CM faces any attack from the Opposition CPM-led Left Democratic Front, the whole UDF including KPCC chief shouts from the roof tops that CM is transparent and his performance is crystal clear. This time Home Minister and CM’s blue eyed boy Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan is the only leader taking pains to justify his boss.
Tenny Joppan, a senior personal staff of the CM, has been arrested for the alleged link with Saritha Nair and Biu Radhakirshnan. Joppan, Salim Raj and Jikku had been removed from the CM’s service in view of their link with the accused couple. Another one suspended in this regard is Firoze, Public Relations Director, Government of Kerala.
During these days CM flew to Bahrain to receive a UN award for the exemplary contact and rapport with the subjects of the State and the endeavour for solving their problems and addressing their grievances, thanks to the CM’s much publicised People Contact Programme of last year. But, when he flew back home, ‘I’ group of Chennithala boycotted the grand reception accorded to the CM by his own ‘A’ group. ‘I’ group alleges that they were unaware of the reception. After coming back, CM sticks to his gun with respect to the Opposition’s demand for his resignation. But, one Sreedharan Nair complained to the police that Joppan and Sarita accepted his cheque for Rs 40 lakh when the three met at CM’s office. Both print and electronic media informed the people that the cheque was given after talking to the CM. But, later on Nair clarified that in the original complaint he had not mentioned his meeting with the CM, but it was added by somebody without his knowledge.
While CM was away in Bahrain KPCC chief Ramesh Chennithala bridged the gap with his once-upon-a-time bête noir K Muraleedharan MLA, former KPCC chief and the controversial son of former CM late K Karunakaran. Ramesh told a public meeting in Kozhikode that Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) was taking undue advantages from the UDF administration. Murali immediately supported him. It was a concerted effort to make a rift between Congress and IUML hence give a tough time to the CM. It stirred a hornets’ nest. IUML shot back in the same coin and said that let UDF decide if they wanted the coalition to continue. Later on Ramesh as well as CM maintained that the former’s statement was twisted by the media. But, Murali says, Ramesh was right. CM’s trusted comrade and known IUML baiter Aryadan Mohammed (Power minister) congratulated Ramesh for his ‘bold’ words. “It is now that Ramesh became the real PCC chief” was his reaction. Ramesh had told that hereafter Congress will take active role in appointing party ministers’ personal staff and it would not be as per the whims and fancies of the ministers. It is clear embarrassment for a veteran like Ommen Chandy. The Congress-IUML meeting slated for the July 2 has been cancelled as the latter found that the time is not right now. The same time, the meeting of the committee formed for the co-ordination between ruling and organisation wings of the Congress Party has also been canceled. A powerful lobby in the IUML is for strong action against Ramesh’s statement against them. They do not even mind to snap the ties with Congress.
CM’s headache still does not see any end. Now, one dancer and TV artist Shaloo Menon hits the headlines for her alleged connection with ‘solar couple’, Joppan and some ministers. Some reports allege that even Home Minster Radhakrishnan had attended Shaloo’s recent house warming.
This is the second time, during the last 20-25 days CM faces the toughest time of his five and half decades long political career. The previous fly in the ointment was about the deputy chief ministership and home ministry Ramesh Chennithala was demanding. That issue still remains unresolved. Now, political observers are at a loss to guess what is in store for the Kerala CM. The only silver line in the CM’s cloudy sky is the sex scandal rocking the Opposition LDF MLA Jose Thettayil.