Solar panel scam: UDF solidly behind Oommen Chandy

    By IANS,

    Thiruvananthapuram: The ruling United Democratic Front that met at Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s official residence late Monday night decided to back the beleaguered leader after revelations made by a businessman.

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    “This is nothing but a plot of the Left opposition and the UDF is solidly behind our chief minister and we have decided to support him fully,” said State Congress president Ramesh Chennithala emerging after a meeting of the top brass of the UDF, to the media.

    All the ministers in the Chandy cabinet besides top UDF leaders were also present at an emergency meeting held to discuss the disclosure.

    Before the assembly begins Tuesday at 8.30 a.m, a special cabinet meeting is also being held.

    In a jolt for Chandy in the solar panel scam, the businessman, who was allegedly cheated of Rs.40 lakh, Monday claimed he visited Chandy’s office with accused Saritha S. Nair, who introduced him as an investor.

    Sreedharan Nair told Reporter TV that Saritha Nair had asked him to come to Chandy’s office July 9 last year.

    “I was asked to reach Chandy’s office and I went along with a friend of mine. She (Saritha) was waiting outside and I was taken to the office of Chandy…. after some time (Chandy’s then aide) Tenny Jopan led me in. Chandy was introduced to me by Saritha S.Nair.

    “He (Chandy) said it was good that you people have come for projects like this and I can go ahead strongly. Soon he left the office and I also along with Nair accompanied him in the lift and then we went our way,” he said.

    Nair added that he paid Rs.40 lakh in three instalments to Saritha Nair to erect a solar panel factory at Palakkad after being convinced that the project was viable.

    After the interview’s telecast, Chandy was closeted at his official residence with senior party leaders.

    Earlier Monday, Chandy had told the assembly that he met Sreedharan Nair twice and discussed issues facing the quarry industry but did not say that they had discussed the solar panel project or if Saritha Nair was present at their meetings.

    He had also blamed the Left, saying its own government had not properly probed the case it had filed against Saritha Nair’s firm in 2010.

    Following the businessman’s statement, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo member and former home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said that Chandy has no more right to continue.

    “He has to resign and then only the investigation in the case can go ahead. He should be interrogated by police and hence he has to step down,” said Balakrishnan, who had Monday sought leave of the house for an adjournment motion on the scam.

    Sreedharan Nair has already filed a private complaint against being cheated at a court in Pathanamthitta and last Saturday, gave a statement to the magistrate.

    “I have given the exact statement to the magistrate about what I told in this interview,” he said.

    Meanwhile, Congress legislator T.N.Prathapan said that Sreedharan Nair has retracted his claims many times ever since this controversy broke out.

    “This is part of a conspiracy being hatched to tarnish the image of the
    chief minister,” he alleged.

    Saritha Nair and her live-in partner Biju Radhakrishnan had launched a firm called Team Solar that collected large sums of money on the promise of delivering solar panels.

    The couple was arrested last month after several complaints were received from people who had given Team Solar money, but got nothing in return.

    Shalu Menon, a dancer and TV actress, who reportedly accompanied Radhakrishnan when he visited a few prospective investors, was also arrested Friday.

    Chandy has come under fire after it was found that three of his staff members had close links with Saritha S.Nair.

    Jopan is behind bars in this case. Two other staff members were sacked, after the case came to light, for being in regular contact with Saritha Nair.