The Vigilance Director, Kerala on Thursday approved the recommendation of the investigating officers to initiate legal proceedings against Opposition leader and octogenarian Marxist VS Achuthanandan, the State’s face of anti-corruption crusade so far, in a corruption case regarding allotment of 2.33 acres of land in Kasaragod district to a relative when he was chief minister.
Achuthanandan will be named first accused and KP Rajendran of the CPI, Revenue minister in the former LDF government, will be the second accused. There will be a total of eight accused in the case including four IAS officials, Achuthanandan’s personal assistant Suresh and relative and recipient of the land TK Soman, an ex-serviceman belonging to Alappuzha district.
Sources said that the Vigilance officials would prepare the first information report on Friday itself and submit it in the Special Vigilance Court in Kozhikode in a day or two. The case would be registered as per the Prevention of Corruption Act and relevant sections of the IPC. They said the plan was to fast-track the procedures and submit the chargesheet at the earliest.
Habeeb Rehman, Superintendent of Police (Vigilance), Kozhikode had the other day presented his report on the allegation against Achuthanandan regarding the land allotment, requesting permission to proceed. This is the first time in the State an Opposition leader who is also a former chief minister is being booked in a case of corruption and nepotism.
The others figuring in the list of accused will be Sheila Thomas, principal secretary to Achuthanandan when he was chief minister, former Land Revenue Commissioner KR Muraleedharan, former Kasaragod district collectors Krishnan Kutty and Anand Singh.
However, Achuthanandan termed the Vigilance case as cooked up and an act of vengeance by the corrupt and immoral elements in the Congress-led ruling UDF. “You should be surprised if the Government headed by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, in which six ministers are accused in corruption cases, does not do something like this against me,” Achuthanandan said.
He alleged that the Chandy Government was making such moves by offering undue benefits to the Vigilance Director, who had already retired from service. “But the criminal designs of these people would not succeed in Kerala where the people are aware of the political work I have been doing for over the past seven decades,” he said in his hometown Alappuzha.
He said he would fight the case legally and politically, adding that people like Muslim League leader and Industries Minister PK Kunhalikutty, facing allegations in a sex abuse case, former minister R Balakrishna Pillai, jailed by the Supreme Court for graft, and IPS official Tomin J Thachankery, suspended the other day for a fourth time, were behind the move against him.
Rejecting the charges, Achuthanandan said that the Chandy Government was trying to trap him in a bogus case for allotting some land to a soldier – incidentally a distant relative – who had spent several years of his life to guard the country. He added that the decision to allot land had been frozen by his government itself immediately after some complaints came up.
The UDF and its leader Congress on Thursday asked Achuthanandan to step down as Opposition leader since a corruption case was being registered against him. “Achuthanandan’s anti-graft crusade is hypocritical,” said UDF convener PP Thankachan while Congress spokesperson MM Hassan said, “The idol of VS as a crusader against graft has now been shattered.”
Interestingly, State CPI(M) secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and Politbureau member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who as Deputy Opposition leader could occupy Achuthanandan’s position if he chose to step down, refused to comment. Central committee member Vaikom Viswan, belonging to the anti-VS faction in the CPI(M), said he had no information on the Vigilance case.