T Satisan, Kochi
Solar scandal still rocks the UDF government led by Oommen Chandy. Even though CPM-led LDF and BJP have been demanding CM’s resignation since the very outbreak of Solar scandal, their movement got a colossal impetus as businessman and Congress worker Sreedharan Nair told a private channel that Solar scandal accused Sarita Nair had taken him to CM’s office on July 9, 2012. He claimed, they both met CM in his offices. He maintains that CM immediately walked to the seats of both guests and told Nair that as Sarita had already briefed him (Nair), government would give subsidies to the consumers of the Solar panels marketed by Sarita.
CM’s behaviour and body language had suggested to Nair that both knew each other very well. Nair got the impression that the staff and security persons in the Secretariat were treating Sarita as a VIP. Hence he gave the balance amount pending for the total advance payment of Rs 40 lakh to Sarita. Sarita had taken him to the CM as per her earlier claim that CM would tell him about the credibility of Sarita’s company, Team Solar. He further said, when Sarita was arrested, some Congress workers promised him to give more than Rs 40 lakh if he withdraws the petition and accepts unaccounted money. But, Nair would only accept demand draft with an affidavit prepared on a stamp paper that this money is paid back as a compensation for the monies he lost due to the fraudulent practices of Sarita and her husband Biju Radhakrishnan.
The above-mentioned interview was like a bolt from the blue for the already shaken CM. Next day the Legislative Assembly witnessed a free-for-all. The Opposition members pressed for an adjournment motion. But, speaker did not allow it. On the other hand CM kept on saying that he had met Sreedharan Nair only when he had come to meet him as a member of the Metal Crusher Owners’ Association delegation. And, Sarita was not with him at that time. Referring to the cheque of Rs two lakh Sarita had given to CM for the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund during the meeting, CM agreed that he had got a cheque of Rs 2 lakh on July 10, 2013, but, he did not disclose the source of that cheque. Opposition was not ready to buy this. They insisted on releasing the web camera visuals of the CM’s office of July 9, 2012. CM stated that the web camera which covers his office cabin round-the-clock does not have recording facility. CPM leader and former minister Dr Thomas Issac shot back that the CCTV cameras covering the verandah must be having recoding facility hence corridor scenes will be more than enough to put an end to the argument whether Sarita had taken Nair to CM’s offices.
Then came the Opposition members’ Assembly boycott. And, capital witnessed fierce street fights with police and Youth Congress men on one side and Opposition MLAs, leaders and LDF sympathisers and workers on the other side. Leader of the Opposition and octogenarian CPM veteran VS Achuthanandan collapsed when grenade blasted near him while addressing a protest meeting near secretariat. LDF immediately called for a State hartal for the next day, July 10, 2012.
Meanwhile, BJP leader K Surendran came out with a fresh allegation that CM’s son and State Youth Congress Secretary Chandy Oommen was the CEO of Starflake Indian, another fraudulent solar panel company.
CM took time and pain, during his post cabinet meeting press conference, to answer the allegations put forward by Sreedharan Nair. He says, CCTV camera covering his office veranda, etc, does not have the capacity to save the visuals for more than 15 days hence impossible to retrieve after one year and CCTV was installed during LDF regime. Even when State was undergoing a hartal of violent protests, CM reiterated that he was innocent hence not ready to resign as per the Opposition trap. He wants to expose the scandal; so, his resignation would be an injustice to the truth. This time his rival “I” group led by PCC chief Ramesh Chennithala gave him full support and rejected the Opposition demand for the CM’s resignation. Congress’s tall leader and Chandy’s mentor AK Antony also told that there was no need of any change of guard. Congress spokesperson Renuka Choudhury echoed Antony during her daily briefing in AICC saying that Chandy’s character is spotless. In Kerala, all the groups within the Congress party and all constituents of UDF have rallied behind Chandy. Even though Chennithala publicly supports CM, “I” group is understood to have informed party high command that Kerala situation is alaming. Kerala Congress leaders KM Mani and PC George are reported to have told that Congress messed up the matter.