Solar panel bribery case: Oommen Chandy is Congress’ bounce-back man

  • Ramesh Babu, Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
  • Updated: Jan 30, 2016 09:04 IST
Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy appears before the solar inquiry commission in Thiruvananthapuram. (PTI Photo)

Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy is the notably the first to give people free access to his office along with a long rope to his staff members.

This very trait, admirable to many, landed the battle-scarred 72-year-old Congress veteran in trouble.

In her deposition, main accused in the solar panel bribery scandal, Saritha Nair, said she was a regular in the CM’s office.

The Kerala high court stayed on Friday a vigilance court order that Chandy and power minister Arayadan Mohammed should be arrested over Saritha’s allegations that they took multi-crore bribes to provide government support to a solar panel company co-owned by her.

The reprieve didn’t repair dents the solar scandal has caused to the Congress-led UDF’s image, facing re-election in state polls this summer.

His knack for instant decisions, unmindful of consequences, has landed him in trouble too often. But after every round, he bounced back with renewed vigour.

No wonder the Congress high command and alliance partners rallied behind him after the vigilance court verdict. The party is aware that his leadership skill and people management tactics are crucial for its survival in the southern state.

Interestingly, his second innings started with a wafer-thin majority of two legislators and many wrote obits saying his ministry won’t last as people were actually looking back at his first term, lasting 16 months after AK Antony’ resignation in 2009. But his government’s majority went up to six when his second term is about to end.

His second phase was marred by scandals, group feuds and coalition crises. Yet, he managed to run the show and there was talk now that the UDF will buck the trend of giving power to opponents after every five years.

“I know truth will prevail. Though there was a conspiracy to pull me down. I have no ill will against anyone,” a relieved Chandy said after the high court verdict.

Unlike his mentor, former defence minister AK Antony, he’s not a prisoner of his image. An astute politician and grassroots leader, when he visits a constituency he calls local leaders by name. It is often said whoever comes to him for help never returns empty-handed.

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