Months after stepping down from the post of Kerala's Transport Minister, senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader AK Saseendran returned to cabinet on Thursday. His swearing-in comes less than a week after a Kerala court acquitted Saseendran of all charges of sexual harassment filed by a woman journalist.
Saseendran had resigned in March last year after the newly launched Malayalam channel Mangalam TV aired a sexually explicit conversation allegedly between him and a woman journalist.
He took oath as Transport Minister a little after 5 pm on Thursday at the Raj Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram. According to reports, NCP's Thomas Chandy who had replaced Saseendran as minister but was forced to resign in a few months following land grabbing allegations against him, did not attend the oath-taking ceremony.
Saseendran's return to the Pinarayi Vijayan cabinet comes nearly ten months after he exited from the cabinet, the same day the news channel aired an "expose."
On January 27, a court in Kerala discharged the NCP leader in the Mangalam honey trap case. This paved way for Saseendran's return to the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government.
In November, the PS Antony Commission that was set up by the state government to probe the allegations against Saseendran had also given him a clean chit.
NCP has two MLAs in the Kerala Assembly. Following Thomas Chandy's resignation in November, the Chief Minister had chosen to retain the Transport Ministry portfolio.
Saseendran's return to the cabinet also comes in the backdrop of the opposition Congress crying foul over the move. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said that by giving the ministerial position to Saseendran once again, the real face of the LDF, which often takes the moral high ground on issues, has been exposed.
â€śHis acquittal by court doesnâ€™t mean that what was wrong is not wrong. Everyone had heard the voice of Saseendran in the audio clip. He hadnâ€™t denied that it was his voice. His sudden resignation was caused by guilt,â€ť Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said in a statement.