Chandy govt’s four years in office dogged by scandals and scams

KPM Basheer Kochi | Updated on March 13, 2018 Published on May 17, 2015

Nothing left to show off as UDF Ministry enters its fifth year

What a tumultuous journey it has been! When the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government enters the fifth and final year of its term this week, even Chief Minister Oommen Chandy might be wondering: how could I come this far?

From crisis to crisis, scandal to worse scandal, corruption allegation to so-far-unimaginable bribery charges, and with intense squabbling in its own ranks, the government has completed four tortuous years.

A survivor

But, in spite of all the crises and challenges, Chandy the optimist has become stronger as Chief Minister and politician. He emerged the gainer from out of the worst crises; and his staying power has been tremendous. Luck has always been on his side, so it seems.

Corruption allegations – though involving ‘small change’ by national corruption standards – have been the hallmark of this government. Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister AK Antony the other day said publicly that corruption has become all-pervasive in Kerala.

Though no corruption allegations have come stuck, two stand out. They defined the popular perception of the government because the drama was played out on the TV channels and the characters made their allegations and counter-allegations in front of the TV camera.

Solar scam

The first was the ‘solar scam’ in which an attractive, intelligent and scheming woman – who wouldn’t mind sharing her bed with politicians for the success of the solar equipment business which she and her boyfriend ran – was involved.

Though no public money was at stake, the woman’s open revelations on the TV about her contacts with ruling party politicians and her influence with the Chief Minister’s aides made the scam a sleazy story lapped up by the media and the Opposition.

Bar bribery

The other one, known as the ‘bar bribery scam’ that has been of a serious nature. The most controversial, bold and far-reaching policy decision of the Chandy Government so far has been the one to get most of the 700-odd liquor bars in the State closed.

It was a move to upend Chandy’s political rivals and to appease a section of the UDF vote bank. But, two ministers in Chandy’s Cabinet – Finance Minister KM Mani and Excise Minister K Babu – were alleged to have received bribes from liquor bar owners for undoing the policy and letting the bars to remain open.

A bar owners’ association leader levelled the allegation that the association members had paid ₹1 crore to Mani, who is also the top leader of the Kerala Congress (Mani) party, a UDF alliance partner, for the offer that the bars would be allowed to keep open.

Months later, he alleged that the Excise Minister had been paid too. The bar scam upset the UDF alliance dynamics.

The bar scam is unlikely to end soon. And, with factionalism within the Congress intensifying and a couple of alliance partners sitting on the fence, the final year of the Chandy government is threatening to be the worst of all.

Published on May 17, 2015
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