In a jolt to the Congress in Kerala, Assembly Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan on Tuesday gave permission to the state government to launch a vigilance probe against two opposition legislators including Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala. The Left government had sought permission from the Speaker to launch a vigilance probe against Chennithala in the backdrop of recent allegations in the bar bribery case.
"The Speaker has granted permission for investigation against Ramesh Chennithala in the bar scam case and KM Shaji (of the IUML) in the disproportionate assets case," the Speaker's office sources told PTI. The sources also confirmed that the Speaker has asked the vigilance to provide more details with regard to the cases against Congress MLAs VD Satheeshan and Anwar Sadath.
Reacting to the development, Chennithala told reporters that he will face the case legally and politically. "The Speaker will act only as per the directions of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan," Chennithala told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram. The Congress party had earlier hit out against the move, saying it was politically motivated.
Biju Ramesh, a liquor baron, had recently reiterated his allegations that he had paid bribes to Chennithala, then KPCC president, and K Babu and VS Sivakumar, former excise and health ministers respectively, during the tenure of the previous UDF government.
Following the allegations, vigilance had conducted a 'quick verification' and sent the file relating to further investigation to the Chief Minister. Chennithala has said the opposition was being targeted as the government is on the backfoot over the various allegations raised by the UDF and investigations by the central agencies.
Biju Ramesh, former working president of the Kerala state Bar Hotel Owners Association, alleged he had handed over crores of rupees to the UDF leaders. He also alleged that Jose K Mani, leader of a Kerala Congress (M) faction, had offered money for withdrawing the bribery allegations against his later father and KC(M) leader K M Mani.