Kerala’s Vigilance Bureau probing scams during Chandy’s tenure
Thiruvananthapuram, July 7 (IANS) Kerala’s Vigilance Bureau is probing the bar bribery and Pattoor land scams that mired the previous UDF government in allegations of graft, and has booked a former ministerial aide in a disproportionate assets case.
Sources said Director General of Police (Vigilance) Jacob Thomas has “re-opened” the bar bribery scam that saw the resignation of Finance Minister in the previous government K.M. Mani, and also led to the stepping down of Excise Minister K. Babu.
The scandal then gave the Left Democratic Front (LDF), which is now in power, ammunition to attack the Oommen Chandy-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government during campaigning for the assembly elections held in May.
Reacting to the news, Mani, who was accused of taking bribe to declare open closed-down bars, said he would cooperate with the probe.
“That has already been probed twice and I have been given a clean chit. I have no problems. Let them do it again and I will fully cooperate,” Mani said.
Former Excise Minister Babu is also likely to come under the scanner as part of the fresh probe launched by Thomas and his team.
On Monday, a team of vigilance officers raided the home of Joseph Lijo, an aide of Minister of Cooperation in the previous government C.N. Balakrishnan.
A case was subsequently booked against Lijo for allegedly possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.
Reacting to the development, Balakrishnan said nothing untoward came to his notice while he was working with Lijo.
“Let the probe go on and, if he has done any wrong, action should be taken,” said Balakrishnan, who headed several cooperative organisations where, it has been alleged, corruption figured.
The staff of other ministers in the Chandy government were also being probed for allegedly possessing assets disproportionate to their known sources of income.
Thomas and his team are also looking into the Pattoor land scam in which Chandy, along with some officials, was alleged to have helped a builder take over public land. The case is already before the Lok Ayukta.
The Vigilance Bureau has also decided to probe more stricly the micro-finance deals of Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP), an organisation for the backward community of Ezhavas in Kerala, headed by Vellappally Natesan.
Natesan had launched a new political party Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), which allied with the BJP in the assembly elections.
The case against Natesan was filed by senior LDF leader V.S. Achuthanandan for alleged misappropriation in the micro-finance operations of the SNDP.
Natesan has called a two-day meeting of his supporters and the leaders of the SNDP Yogam at Alappuzha beginning Friday.
He told reporters on Thursday that Achuthanandan is being used as a tool by a few estranged leaders of the SNDP Yogam.
“We have taken action against those who have done wrong in the micro-finance operations. Let me tell you, I will quit public life if I am proven guilty,” Natesan said.
He said the SNDP Yogam had got a loan from the government that they were paying back.
The vigilance probes are likely to figure among the issues that the opposition will raise in the assembly session beginning on Friday.
Notably, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had earlier assured that the government would do nothing “vindictive” against the opposition.