There's sand in Oomen Chandy's golden eye
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his office, still smarting under the solar scam heat, have been battered by a fresh storm.
This time around, the CM’s office has come under the scanner because of the links of an accused in a gold smuggling case, who was arrested at the Delhi airport, with a member of the Chief Minister’s office.
The accused, Faiz is alleged to have had telephonic talks with an additional Private Secretary of the CM. A former member of the CM’s staff, Jikkumon, who had been suspended in connection with the solar scam, also reportedly maintained contacts with Faiz, according to the police.
With the arrest of Faiz, an international gold smuggling racket with suspected base in Dubai has been unearthed.
Incidentally, Faiz, who smuggled in the gold through the Nedumbassery Airport in Kerala with the help of a few customs officers, had visited some accused in the Chandrasekharan murder case, in jail. This has created a controversy and an inquiry has been ordered to look into this issue.
Understandably, the latest scam has provided fresh cannon fodder to the Opposition, which has already put the government on the defensive over the solar scam.
Opposition leader V S Achuthanandan has demanded the resignation of the Chief Minister, saying that the CM’s office has become the refuge of criminals, fraudsters and all sorts of conmen.
Congress leaders belonging to the group inimical to the CM, have also trained their guns at the Chief Minister’s office. No less a person than KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala himself has termed the allegations as very serious and demanded a ‘comprehensive and credible’ inquiry into the issue.
Significantly, the KPCC chief has not cared to defend the Chief Minister unlike in the past. Another prominent I group leader, K. Muralidharan, MLA, has also sought a comprehensive inquiry into the gold smuggling scam.
The CM must initiate a credible investigation into the allegations against his staff member as the charges have further tarnished the Chandy Government’s image, already severely dented by the solar scam.
The only ‘silver lining’ for the Congress is that two or three ministers belonging to the Indian Union Muslim League as well have come under suspicion. Although the IUML ministers have denied any links with the gold smuggling accused Faiz, a TV channel has raked it up.
The scam could not have come at a worse time for the Chief Minister. Congress president Sonia Gandhi is on a two-day visit to Kerala from Sunday.
During her visit, Sonia is set to meet leaders of the Congress’s allies in the UDF to sort out the problems plaguing the ruling coalition government in the State and redress the grievances of IUML and Kerala Congress (Mani).
What is adding to the discomfiture of the Chandy Government is the tough stance adopted by the Government Chief Whip P C George, who has been critical of both the Chief Minister and the UDF Government on various issues.
George has demanded an inquiry by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) as the State police has completely lost its credibility.
It goes without saying that the latest controversy has put the Congress High Command under severe pressure, deepening its dilemma.
If it acts against the Chief Minister, it would strengthen the opposition Left Democratic Front, which has been baying for the CM’s blood over the solar scam. If it does not, the Congress will fare poorly in the Lok Sabha elections.
It is a Catch 22 situation for the High Command, which seems to have lost the art of issuing firm commands to discipline erring state units. IPA