Saturday, May 9, 2009

Kerala CM faces sack for fighting corruptionNagendar Sharma,

Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan could face the sack for taking a stand against corruption allegedly involving his party colleague, state Communist boss Pinarayi Vijayan.

The state leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) wants Achuthanandan, 85, to step down after he refused to endorse the party decision that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) not be given permission to prosecute Vijayan in a 13-year-old corruption case.

The politburo in Delhi could take a final decision after election results are out on May 16.

“His stand has embarrassed the party in times of elections and if he doesn’t change his stand, VS will have to go,’ said a senior party eader.

Achuthanandan is feeling isolated since Vijayan enjoys strong support among the top leadership in Delhi.

The party’s central leadership quickly went into damage-control mode.

“We have contacted the state leadership and they told us the matter was not discussed, and no final decision has been taken so far,” Politburo member S. Ramachandran Pillai told Hindustan Times.

The final decision in the matter will be taken by the Politburo — the party’s highest decision-making body.

Achuthanandan and Vijayan have been involved in a bitter factional feud for many years now.

Both were suspended from the Politburo — the party’s highest decision-making body —for speaking against each other in public. The suspension was later revoked.

Vijayan faces allegations of having caused a loss of more than Rs 100 crore to the state exchequer in 1997, when he was the state’s power minister.

He had allegedly awarded a contract to Canadian firm SNC Lavalin to renovate and modernise three hydroelectric power projects in Kerala at an exorbitant price.

The Kerala High Court had asked the CBI to probe the matter in 2006. The agency had sought the governor’s permission to prosecute Vijayan in January last year.

The CPM took a stand that the case was “politically motivated” and there was no evidence against Vijayan.

Finally, in January this year, the court asked the state government to give its opinion in the matter.

Earlier this month, the Advocate General (AG) in his opinion stated that there was “no need to give permission to prosecute Vijayan as there was no evidence against him.”

The state cabinet endorsed the AG’s opinion on Wednesday, but Achuthanandan wanted the probe to continue.

With the party solidly behind Vijayan, the endgame for the veteran leader has begun, in case he doesn’t bow down to the party directive. Hindustan Times

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