Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan has retracted his statement which virtually held Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac, a prominent face of the rival faction, responsible for bad handling of the lottery controversy by the LDF Government.
In a clarification last night, Achuthanandan said his statement was "misinterpreted" by media as an indictment of Isaac, a CPI-M Central Committee member and a prominent face of the faction led by party state secretary and his bete noire Pinarayi Vijayan.
Achuthanandan had admitted at a press meet in Kochi on Monday that there were lapses on the government's part in thoroughly studying the Central Lottery Act and taking measures to check irregularities by distributors, for which the officials could not be blamed.
His remark was widely seen as an indictment of Isaac. While the Chief Minister's statement embarrassed the LDF engaged in a high-voltage civic poll campaign, the opposition Congress-led UDF was quick to seize on it to attack the rival suggesting it exposed the lack of unity even in the cabinet.
For quite some time, UDF leaders have been targetting the government alleging it allowed "lottery sharks" to siphon off huge amounts from the state through sale of out-of-state lotteries. They also alleged that the lottery issue involved corruption and irregularities and accused sections in the government and CPI-M of having "unholy nexus" with lottery operators.
According to CPI-M sources, Achuthanandan's statement and its interpretation and wide coverage by the media came as an embarrassment to the LDF in the concluding phases of the civic polls campaign.
The sources said if Achuthanandan had stuck to his statement and declined to make a clarification,the rival group would have taken up the matter with the central leadership.
Achuthanandan was dropped from the CPIM politburo a year ago following a flare up in his long-drawn feud with Vijayan, following the latter being made an accused in a corruption case relating to a hydro electric power contract awarded to a foreign firm when he was power minister in the 1990s.
Despite Achuthanandan's demotion in the party hierarchy, the 85-year-old veteran continued to be the most popular leader and has re-emerged the main campaigner of the LDF's civic polls due this month.
Of late, speculation has been rife that he might be taken back into the politburo soon as his pivotal presence is crucial for the party to fight the assembly polls just a year away.