In Kerala CM chopper row, CPM may foot bill
The controversy erupted at a time the Kerala government was requesting people to contribute to the chief minister’s relief fund to help the cyclone-affected people.india Updated: Jan 10, 2018 17:54 IST
The ruling CPM could foot the bill for chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s chartered helicopter to attend a party function in Thrissur last December, which triggered a controversy as money from the cyclone Ockhi relief fund was diverted to pay for the journey.
The row erupted at a time the government was requesting people to contribute to the chief minister’s relief fund to help the cyclone-affected people.
“The CM has made it clear that it was done without his knowledge. The issue must have ended there. The party is capable enough to foot the bill,” said state tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran, who is also a senior leader of the CPM.
Another senior leader, Anathalvattom Anandan, said the party would investigate the “lapse”.
The lapse being referred to is the Rs 8 lakh helicopter bill sanctioned from the disaster relief fund by additional chief secretary PH Kurian after the chief minister’s flight from Thiruvananthapuram to Thrissur on December 26 to attend a party district committee event.
Vijayan returned to Thiruvananthapuram in the chartered helicopter for two functions in the state capital, including a meeting with the central team that came to review the damage caused by the cyclone. Thereafter, he flew back to the party meet.
State revenue minister E Chandrasekharan, a CPI nominee, sought an explanation from the additional chief secretary for paying from the relief fund for the chief minister’s tour to attend a CPM event.
Vijayan cancelled the official’s order later, saying it was done without his knowledge.
The opposition Congress and BJP alleged that the government was making the senior bureaucrat a scapegoat, and demanded an apology from the chief minister for what they called misuse of cyclone relief funds.
“He owes an apology to the state,” said former chief minister Oommen Chandy.
Also, the Latin Catholic Church, whose clout runs deep among south Kerala’s fishing community, criticised the alleged fund diversion.
Even party insiders admitted that “lapses of some officials dented the image of the government badly”.
The government had cancelled New Year celebrations this time and diverted the money to the relief fund. Kerala was the worst affected after cycole Ockhi hit the coast on November 29. At least 70 people died and about 100 fishermen went missing in the high seas.