The Congress-led United Democratic Front opposition on Tuesday staged a walkout in the Kerala assembly over the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) purchasing 82 acres of forestland to set up a space education institute in the state.
The situation turned chaotic soon after senior Congress legislator Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan sought leave for an adjournment motion to discuss the purchase of land from businessman Xavy Mano Mathew in Ponmudi, nearly 61 km from here, by the national space agency.
"This is one of the biggest land scams that Kerala has ever seen. How can anyone sell government-owned forestland to ISRO?" asked opposition leader and former chief minister Oommen Chandy.
Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, however, reasoned that he was still looking into the issue and would meet government officials and the ISRO team on Thursday to deliberate on it. But Chandy was not to be mollified. "You have failed to stand by your words. You have been talking about a land mafia in the state and today you are trying to shield a minister who is part of a corrupt deal. We demand a CBI probe into the matter," Chandy said before leading the walkout.
Forest Minister Vishwam said that during a recent meeting with ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair, he had expressed desire for the world-class institute, slated to be inaugurated on September 14, but the land deal from a shady businessman did not crop up during the talks.
Last week, Nair met the minister to save the institute. ISRO authorities had identified the land at the personal initiative of Nair after they failed to find a place in the district.