Kerala’s solar scam is increasingly turning out to be a huge embarrassment for the chief minister Oomen Chandy and the Congress party.
On Thursday, a vigilance court ordered FIR to be filed against Chandy and his power minister Araydan Mohammed.
What’s Solar Scam?
The scam involves a solar firm Team Solar Renewable Enery Solutions Private Limited, which was floated by the prime accused Saritha S Nair and her live-in partner Biju Radhakrishnan in 2011.
According to Indian Express, the couple, in their early days, would collect investments from businessmen and NRIs, promising to make them partners in wind mill projects and solar fields. They dropped names of politicians, including of Chandy, and that was enough to convince most businessmen to invest in their schemes. If that wasn’t enough, the couple would produce forged letterheads of the CM’s office and impress them by talking on the phone to the CM’s staff. One of the meetings, with an investor called Sreedharan Nair, reportedly took place in the chief minister’s conference room.
Last month, Radhakrishnan, who’s now serving life sentence for killing his wife, made sensational allegation that he had paid Rs 5.5 crore to Chandy as bribe.
Nair’s call records showed she had been in touch with Chandy’s staff members – personal assistant Tenni Joppen, additional personal assistant Jikkumon Jacob and Chandy’s security guard Salim Raj. Several of these calls had been traced to the landline in the CM’s office and to Joppen’s cellphone.
The case assumed a serious political dimension with the arrest of Tenny Joppan, a Personal Assistant in the Chief Minister’s office, for his alleged links with the accused.
Former Director of Public Relations Department A Firoz and tele-actress and danseuse Shalu Menon were also arrested in a related case. Shalu and Joppan are out on bail.
On Wednesday, deposing before the Justice Sivarajan Commission that’s probing the solar scam, Nair accused Chandy and his Cabinet colleague Arayadan Mohammed of accepting bribe, a charge both denied.
How’s Oomen Chandy involved?
Allegations of Nair and Radhakrishnan aside, a leaked audio recently surfaced suggesting that the Congress spokesperson Tampanoor Ravi had advised Nair to “play safe” in her testimony while being cross-examined. The politician quickly issued denial adding that his remarks couldn’t be deemed as evidence of him trying to coach Nair. “I spoke to Saritha Nair just like I speak to anyone who calls me. She has earlier said in public that the Chief Minister is like a father to her. Therefore, I have no reason to try and influence her. ”
Radhakrishnan had earlier said that he will produce the secret written agreement between CM’s son Chandy Oommen and Team Solar before the judicial commission. According the agreement, 60 per cent of the profit was to be set apart for the CM.
Chandy, for his part, blames the powerful Kerala liquor bar owners’ association behind the ‘trumped up’ charge adding that the allegations against him was a conspiracy because he had taken tough actions against them.
Earlier this week, the Kerala CM had refused to be undergo a lie-detector test.
The Solar scam is a bad news for the Congress and its led ruling alliance United Democratic Front. The opposition has already started sharpening its knives against Chandy demanding his resignation.
The amount involved in the scam may not be huge but the CM Chandy has been placed in an awkward predicament as far as perception battle is concerned.
The state is scheduled to go for elections in few months time. The Left alliance LDF has seized the opportunity as it seeks to revive its electoral fortunes in the next assembly elections.
The BJP too is desperate to make inroads in in Kerala and wants to ride piggyback on the negative perception against the Congress led alliance.
The BJP, which has never won an assembly or Lok Sabha seat in Kerala, will be determined to break the jinx.