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The solar scam in Kerala is turning out to be a nightmare for the congress government as it has shaken the Oommen Chandy’s regime. The 7 crore scandal was exposed in 2013 when the prime accused Saritha S. Nair and her live in partner Biju Radhakrishnan were arrested, the “Bunty and Bubli” of Kerala conned many NRI’s and business persons in the state by using their high level connections with the Kerala cabinet including the CM Chandy.
A vigilance court in Kerala has ordered a FIR against the CM on Thursday. In a dramatic series of events, the accused claimed before Justice Sivarajan Commission that the CM accepted a bribe of 1.90 crores. Congress has been terming these allegations as false and saying that the neither the government has lost a single rupee in this so called scam and had not helped any other company to gain even a paisa out of it.
Who is Saritha S Nair?
Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan were business partners in Team solar Renewable energy Co. which offered solar energy solutions to institutions and private household. The couple duped the influential people and collected huge amounts from investors promising them solar energy material and a stake in the company’s wind energy solutions. They used the names of their high level connections and politicians including Chandy, which would easily sweep the deals for them. The couple had fake CMO letterheads too. The police arrested Nair in June 2013 and subsequently Biju from Kerala.
How was the scam exposed?
The cards of the scam unfolded when Sajad A, a Gulf returned businessman complained that the couple has taken 40 lacs as consultation fees after promising to make him owner of three wind mill projects. After being deceived he lodged a complaint against them. After that Saritha S Nair was arrested, as many as 33 complaints were registered in the name of the couple. The twist came when Police checked their call records and then the political involvement came into limelight.
Who was involved?
The phone records reveal that she was in constant touch with the Chief Minister’s staff- personal assistant Tenni Joppen, additional personal assistant Jikkumon Jacob and Chandy’s security guard Salim Raj. Since Chandy is known to use Jacob’s phone, there are implications that he was in direct touch with the CM. Police investigations reveal that she was in constant touch with 30 odd UDF leaders including former Union ministers KC Venugopal & K. Suresh, four state ministers and 8 MLA’s of the state. With some of the ministers, she even had late night calls lasting for several minutes.
Radhakrishnan who is facing a life term sentence for killing his wife, informed the court that he had paid a bribe of 5.5 crores to Chandy and his associates. He claimed that Chandy and other ministers have had physical relations with Nair.
What are the allegations of Nair?
In February 2014, Nair was released on bail. She had handed over a letter to the court via the jail staff, which contained the names of 13 politicians and a senior police officer. Former Jail DGP Alexander Jacob revealed that as many as 150 applications were made to meet Nair in jail, made by senior politicians and high profile people.
Nair alleged that she paid a bribe of 1.9 crore Rs to the Chief Minister, for getting land and subsidies for her solar project. She also claimed to give Rs.40 lacs to Power Minister Aryaden Muhammad. Meanwhile, the vigilance court also ordered to file an FIR against Muhammad too.
What CM has to say?
On Tuesday Chandy was deposed before the court and questioned for 11 long hours. He claims that he has evidence that the liquor lobby in the state has been trying to implicate him as he shut down all the bars in the state. The CM constantly denied his involvement in the scam but at the same time refused to undergo lie detector test.
How much the scam has hampered the Congress?
Chandy suffered a severe blow to his reputation. His three personal staff members have been sacked. To add to Chandy’s grief, a leaked audio tape played on local media had Congress spokesperson Tampanoor Ravi advising Nair to “play safe” in her testimony when she was cross-questioned. In 2014, Nair filed a complaint against Congress legislator AP Abdullakutty alleging that he raped her in a government hotel in Trivendrum. If Congress were to lose the Kerala elections, it would probably be because of these dramatic events.
There has been a constant protest from the opposition demanding resignation of the CM in the bribe case. As Kerala is headed for polls in a few months, LDF will use the solar scam as the ammunition against the already jittery Congress. With its chief minister and power minister facing an FIR in the solar scam, and the finance minister and excise minister already having quit over the bar bribery case, the Congress-led coalition is in a precarious situation.