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Millennium Post

What after the solar scam?

The hallmark of a shrewd politician/political party is the ability to turn even adversity to account. Such an opportunity has presented itself for the Congress high command in the wake of the solar scam, which has shaken the Congress in Kerala and the party-led UDF government to its very foundations.

The million dollar question is: Does the High Command have the strength of will to take tough decisions which the situation demands?
The solar scam ball has been tossed back into the High Command’s court following the failure of the party in Kerala to solve the problem at the state-level. Both the CM and the KPCC chief have been summoned to Delhi for talks to break the deadlock.

But if its initial response is any guide, the high command does not seem to have imbibed the enormity of the problem and the need to effect drastic action to clear the political mess.
The high command seems to think that all that is needed to undo the enormous damage inflicted on the party and the party-led government in the state by the solar scam is a reconstitution of the state cabinet by inducting KPCC chief Ramesh Chennithala in it!

The stark reality is that unless those who are responsible for the party’s discredit (read Oommen Chandy) are punished, and replaced by a leader with a clean image,  the exercise aimed at regaining the credibility and acceptability of both the Congress and the UDF Government won’t succeed. The party in Kerala boasts of a number of leaders who have the right credentials for the job – VM Sudheeran, Aryadan Mohammed, K. Muralidharan, to mention a few names. Unfortunately, no such fresh thinking or out-of-the-box solution is being betrayed by the high command.

The damage-control formula seems to be to allow Oommen Chandy to remain as the CM despite the fact that his position has become utterly untenable with more and more damaging disclosures.
The latest setback to the Congress and the UDF Government has been the Kerala High Court’s searing indictment of the police investigation into the solar scam. The HC has doubted the integrity of the government by voicing its reservations.

Is the Government trying to hide something? Why is the second accused in the scam, Saritha Nair, not being allowed to record her statement – a wish she herself expressed to the judge in person in the presence of only her lawyer?
These are among the many searching questions asked by the HC judge. The HC has seen in all this an attempt to subvert the judicial system itself. In another solar scam-related case on the same day, another HC judge savaged the police for failing to properly investigate a case in which a Bangalore-based businessman has accused CM’s relatives and friends of cheating him of Rs 1 one crore. Have the police enquired whether the fraud was perpetrated with the knowledge of the Chief Minister? That two judges of the HC have strongly criticized the state police’s probe – or the lack of it – into the solar scam the same day itself is unprecedented in the annals of Kerala’s judicial history.
What was the reaction of the state Congress leaders to the stinging judicial rap? Instead of indulging in introspection, the party leaders and its spokespersons have sought to draw comfort from the fact that the judges have not made any observations against the CM and therefore he does not have to quit!

Chandy and his aides conveniently forget that former Chief Minister late K Karunakaran had resigned in the infamous espionage case because of a single sentence in the HC’s observations.
Recently, former Union Railway Minister P K Bansal stepped down not because he was directly accused of bribe-taking but because he was found to have allowed his office and residence to be misused by his relatives to make pecuniary gains. Does not the same logic apply in the case of Oommen Chandy? It has been established that Chandy’s own close aides were hand in glove with the solar scam accused, and a personal assistant of Chandy has been arrested.
Still, Chandy won’t resign on moral grounds as he thinks he must stay in power to uncover the truth – a statement dubbed as the biggest joke of the recent times by leader of the opposition V S Achuthanandan. Obviously, what is sauce for the goose(Bansal) is not sauce for the gander(Chandy)!

Chandy loyalists contend that their leader has the firm backing of the Indian Unon Muslim League(IUML), a key ally in the UDF. True. And it is not difficult to divine the reason for IUML’s ‘blind faith’ in Chandy. No other Congress leader will be as accommodative and as submissive to the diktats of the (IUML) as Chandy. Hence the League’s solid support to Chandy.

But there has been a marked shift in Kerala Congress(M)’s stand. KC(M) chief and finance minister K M Mani no more makes a ‘firm commitment’ to Chandy unlike in the past. Mani, who recently met Congress president Sonia Gandhi, is learnt to have offered his candidature for the CM’s post on the ground that his credentials for the job are better than any other UDF leader!  

The resignation threat made by Mani aide PC George is being construed as part of the effort to strengthen Mani’s case for the CM’s post. Latest rumours have it that Mani is being sought to be softened up with the offer of a Union Cabinet berth for his son and KC(M) MP Jose K Mani.
Be that as it may, one thing is for sure. With Chandy at the helm, the Congress and the UDF would face disaster in the Lok Sabha elections. The last nail in the Congress-UDF ‘coffin’ could well be the publicising of scam accused Saritha Nair’s statement.

Saritha’s lawyer says the names of central as well as state ministers figure in her statement. The statement would be out shortly. Chandy’s fate could well and truly be sealed in the event of such a denouement. Kerala is waiting, with bated breath, for the impending Saritha bombshell.
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