Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan on Wednesday broke his silence on the Rs 98-crore SNC Lavalin scam and refused to stand by his rival and CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, an accused in the case.
Achuthanandan said he would only discharge his constitutional duties. When asked whether he agreed with the party position that the scam was a politically motivated case, he said he would have to study it.
Top party leaders, including some members of the Politburo — the top decision making body in the party — have hit the road, alleging that the scam was a political conspiracy, but the CM hinted that he would not even share the dais with Vijayan.
The party state committee earlier decided that Achuthanandan would kick off the Kerala Yatra, aimed at re-energising the party before the elections, in northern Kasargod on February 2.
What’s more, as soon as the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) sought Governor R.S. Gavai’s permission to prosecute Vijayan on January 23, the CM rushed to Delhi to seek his removal. He also requested the central leadership to drop him from the yatra.
But the Politburo decided to fight the case politically. It had also rushed S. Ramachandran Pillai, a Politburo member, to the state to co-ordinate the campaign against the CBI case.
Upset, Achuthanandan reportedly informed the central leadership that he would quit if the party forces him to defend Vijayan.
The 12-year-old scam hit the headlines again after the CBI sought the permission to prosecute Vijayan, who was power minister when the deal was signed in the 1990s.
The Left Front government, headed by E.K. Nayanar, awarded the Rs 374-crore contract to a Canadian firm, SNC Lavalin, for supplying equipment for three hydel projects.
But Lavalin failed to honour its commitment to mobilise Rs 90 crore for the Malabar Cancer Centre in northern Kannur district in return for the contract that was fixed on a direct deal.
The Comptroller and Auditor General also criticised the government for overlooking the public sector Bharat Heavy Electricals, which had quoted a lower price.