Monday, February 16, 2009

'Kerala CPM chief guilty’

A day after the CPM declared that the allegations of corruption against its Kerala unit boss and Politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan were “politically motivated”, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe report showed his direct involvement in the deal which allegedly caused huge financial losses to the state, running into hundreds of crores of rupees.

The CBI report submitted to the Kerala High Court and seen by HT comes as a major embarrassment for the CPM. It has provided specific instances of Vijayan’s complete involvement, something which his party bosses have denied so far.

The allegations of bribery against Vijayan in a 12 year-old deal, when he was the state power minister, pertain to awarding a contract to a Canadian company SNC Lavalin for the repair and modernisation of three hydroelectric power projects in the state.

“Those who have seen the (CBI) report say there is not an iota of evidence that Vijayan has benefited monetarily. I won’t go into the details unless I have studied the report,” party general secretary Prakash Karat had said.

The detailed CBI report showed how misplaced was Karat’s claim. “Though the total contract amount for renovation and modernisation of Pallivasal, Sengulam and Panniar hydroelectric projects was Rs 243 crore, a total amount of Rs 333 crore was spent,” said the CBI report.

It said a committee headed by senior CPM leader E. Balanandan had submitted a report to Vijayan in 1997. Balanandan’s report was based on the recommendations of experts. It estimated the total cost of repair and modernisation as just Rs 100 crore. “Without considering the recommendations of the Balandan committee, supply contracts were signed with SNC Lavalin immediately,” the CBI report pointed out.

“Exploiting the opportunity, Pinarayi hatched the second level of conspiracy since SNC Lavalin had promised a grant for the establishment of Malabar Cancer Centre (MCC) at Thalassery which falls within his native district,” the CBI report said.

Pinarayi visited Canada in 1996, shortly after taking over as the power minister and finalised the contract in the absence of then Chief Minister E.K. Nayanar, the agency alleged. “Even a naïve or unsophisticated person will not believe the offer of Rs 100 crore of grant-in-aid for a project initially estimated at Rs 159 crore. Obviously, Lavalin wanted to bag the contract at an exorbitant rate and accused officials along with the minister wanted the cancer centre,” the report said.

Party leader and Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan is in favour of allowing the CBI to prosecute Vijayan, his political rival.

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