Oommen Chandy’s influence with the high command of the Congress party has been waning

Voices Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 05:30
By N K Bhoopesh This is a controversy that could not have come at a worse time for Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy. The highest court of the state ordering a CBI enquiry in a land grabbing case, in which Chief Minister's former gun man Salim Raj is involved, has caught Chandy completely off guard. Despite the court in unequivocal terms expressing its displeasure on the functioning of the Chief Minister's office, the CM has no explanation on why he is still occupying the Chief Minister's seat. Oommen Chandy’s statement that he will not resign, flies in the face of his predecessors who put in their papers when court expressed their displeasure in their working. Already not in the good books of the Congress High Command, Fridays court order is making Chandy’s political survival more difficult. Kerala High Court while ordering CBI enquiry in the land grabbing case, cast aspersions on the working Chief minister’s office. Justice Harun –Ul – Rashid while ordering the CBI enquiry in two land grabbing cases noted that office staff of the Chief Minister are involved in multiple criminal cases including cheating scores of people in the solar scam. The judge also noted that above incidents have raised serious questions on the functioning of the Chief Ministers office. Even after getting severe drubbing from the high court, Chief Minister was categorical in dismissing the demand for his resignation. His complaint was that the court made observations without even bothering to take note of his version. To a barrage of questions from the media he tried to play the emotional card, also boasting of his ‘transparent public life’. In the last eight months, many allegations against Chief Minister’s office have made headlines in Kerala. The solar scam, in which a private firm, Team Solar, allegedly in connivance with some prominent staff members of Chief minister duped several investors and consumers, promising to make them business partners, or to install solar power units, and receiving advance payments for the same. The fake company lured investors and consumers, by showing their close association with the Chief Minister’s office. After the second accused Saritha S Nair’s close association with some of Oommen Chandy’s close staff was established, Oommen Chandy after initial reluctance was forced to dismiss them from his office. While the solar case was the top headline in Kerala, came news of the land grabbing case involving Chief Minister’s gun man Salim Raj. Unfazed by the criticism from the judiciary and from the opposition, Chief minister has been trying to cling to power, ostensibly because he might be thinking that taking a moral high ground and resigning would sent him to political wilderness. Oommen Chandy’s influence with the high command of the Congress party has been waning during last one year or so, for varied reasons. This was evident when he was directed him to induct Ramesh Chennithala, the then Pradesh Congress Committee President , into the cabinet as Home Minister. Further to Chandy’s dismay, AICC appointed V M Sudheeran, a popular leader and Chandy’s bete noire as PCC president. His political exigencies aside, Oommen Chandy’s decision to stay in power despite court ruling, is creating history of sorts. It has been the practice of the Kerala politicians to put in their papers whenever judiciary snubbed them. The powerful K Karunakaran was forced to resign after court expressed their displeasure in an affidavit he filed in the Rajan case after the emergency period. It is not long ago K P Viswanathan, forest minister in 2005 Oommen Chandy’s cabinet resigned after High Court passed some strictures against him in the sandal mafia case. This high court remark was later expunged by the Supreme Court is another matter. Friday’s court observations against Oommen Chandy and his intransigent approach, has come as a shot in the arm for the opposition LDF. Almost all opinion polls have been predicting an upper hand for the ruling front in the coming elections. Despite the anti incumbency factor running against them, UDF made a brave posturing in the campaign trail thanks to bickering in the opposition on various issues ranging from political violence to selection of candidates. But now, hardly two weeks left for the poll, CPIM led opposition will use the Court’s ruling against Chief Ministers office. Sensing a change of guard after the poll in the UDF ministry, it remains to be seen who among the Congress leaders will be defending the defenseless chief minister. For Oommen Chandy who once successfully waged war against none other than K Karunakaran, is but now a lonely man. His political future after April 10th seems unclear. Bhoopesh is a senior journalist based out of Kerala.
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