Kerala CPI-M leader named accused in foreign firm scam


Kochi : In a major set-back to the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), its Kerala unit secretary Pinarayi Vijayan has been named an accused in a multi-million-rupee scam after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) completed its probe.

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Reports indicate that Vijayan, with two other accused, made a criminal conspiracy and finalised the deal with SNC Lavalin of Canada for renovation and modernisation of the Pallivassal, Chengulam and Panniyar hydro-electric projects in Idukki district.

Vijayan, as state electricity minister in 1997, had awarded the contract to SNC Lavalin.

The CBI, in its detailed report early this week to both the Kerala High Court and the CBI court here, named 11 accused, including Vijayan and a top official of the Canadian company. Others are government employees who have now retired.

While Vijayan is yet to react to the development, K. Mohanachandran, former state power secretary, in a chat with reporters here denied any wrong-doing.

“All that I did was for the best interests of the state. If this is the case, government servants will now do nothing for fear of being indicted,” he said.

With this issue now being keenly debated, the CPI-M has gone on the defensive. The party’s central leadership has blamed the Congress party for the development and described it as “politically motivated” ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

However, the Congress’ former electricity minister in 2001, Kadavoor Sivadasan said the CPI-M is airing “baseless statements” about Vijayan being targeted politically.

“All such talk is baseless because it was the Congress minister, G.Karthikeyan, just before Vijayan took over, who signed the MoU for the project. It was very clear that Vijayan and the then government should have gone for a global tender to identify the partner. But they violated rules and simply gave the work to the Canadian company,” Sivadasan said.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in 2006 found irregularities in the contract and the Kerala High Court January 2007 ordered a CBI probe into the scam.

The CBI has now written to the Kerala chief secretary for permission to prosecute the government officials, and the letter has been passed on to Chief Minister V.S.Achuthanandan.

Earlier in the day, Achuthanandan, on return from a visit to Delhi Thursday, evaded the media.

His sudden visit to Delhi caused many raised eyebrows as Achuthanandan and Vijayan head the two factions in the party’s state unit and for long, the chief minister had to play second fiddle to the state party chief because of the brute majority that the latter has in the 84-member state committee.

Meanwhile, both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have called for Vijayan’s resignation.

The CPI-M’s politburo meeting slated for later this month in Delhi is likely to take a decision in the case.