A veteran journalist who enjoys looking at the quirky side of life

R K Nair

Political soap opera

| Updated on July 10, 2013

shalu

"Have the children slept? May I switch on the news channel?" A man asks his wife in a recent Facebook post in Malayalam. It pithily captures the flavour of the season in Kerala.

Gone are the days when children were made to sit before TV sets to watch the news. Nor are they encouraged to read newspapers because news reports these days are more salacious than TV serials.

The recent arrest of TV serial artiste Shalu Menon in what has come to be called the solar scam must have got more eyeballs than any of her serials ever did. The arrest followed a tumultuous series of events that showed high-ranking officials, cabinet ministers and even the chief minister in bad light.

The prime accused in the case are a fraudster named Biju Radhakrishnan and his live-in partner Saritha Nair. They used their high-level connections to defraud people of crores of rupees with false promises of supplying solar panels. The scam unravelled when a businessman in Thiruvananthapuram complained last month that the duo, along with the director of the State PR department, duped him of Rs 40 lakh.

Saritha was arrested while the other two went into hiding. Biju was later arrested from Coimbatore but the PR director is still absconding. Meanwhile, more people came forward to file complaints of cheating and one of them named Shalu Menon too.

The police was reluctant to take Shalu into custody, presumably because she was close to Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan. The minister initially denied any links with her but later admitted to have spent "two minutes" at her home at the behest of party workers during her house-warming ceremony.

Videos and photos soon emerged, which showed that the minister not only spent well beyond "two minutes" at her home but he was also quite pally with the actor. Calls for his resignation enraged the minister and he dropped a bombshell by leaking to the media, through an IGP, the call details of Saritha Nair, which showed that she was in constant touch with the high and mighty that included cabinet ministers and legislators. Some had called her at odd hours at night and the conversation went on for hours.

Meanwhile, the questioning of Biju and Saritha literally threw open a can of worms. Biju is reported to have admitted that he had murdered his wife to be with Saritha. On the basis of Saritha's statement, a close aide of the chief minister was arrested and two other staff members in his office were suspended. The Opposition launched a concerted campaign for the ouster of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, alleging that not only his staff but family members -- presumably his son -- were also involved in the scam.

Meanwhile, one of the duped businessmen alleged that he had given Rs 40 lakh to Saritha at the behest of the chief minister himself. The CM admitted to have met the businessman but said he had come to his chamber as a part of a business delegation. Demands to release the video recordings of the meeting were met with the claim that there was no provision to store the recordings.

The Opposition alleges that the chief minister is being economical with the truth. The ruckus over the scam has paralysed the State Assembly, which has been adjourned sine die. Now the Left parties are fighting pitched street battles with the police, which has paralysed normal life in the State.

As a sideshow to the solar scam comes the strange case of Jose Thettayil, a former minister and now Opposition MLA. A woman alleged that both Thettayil and his son sexually exploited her with the promise of getting her married to the son.

She released edited versions of bedroom scenes featuring her with the MLA. Some TV channels unabashedly aired the soft-porn clips during prime time, prompting viewers to shoo children away from drawing rooms!

Published on July 10, 2013

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