Kerala minister Saseendran in trouble for ‘trying to settle harassment case’
Kerala minister A K Saseendran is in trouble again after an audiotape of his purported conversation with the father of a woman, who has levelled sexual harassment charges against a leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), surfaced. The minister is purportedly heard advising the father to settle the issue somehow.
The minister admitted he talked to the father, but he said when he came to know that harassment charges were involved, he stopped the conversation abruptly. But the father alleged that the minister called him several times and forced him to withdraw the complaint and settle the issue amicably. Saseendran was in 2017 forced to resign after his obscene conversation with a woman journalist surfaced. He was reinduced as a minister after the journalist withdrew her complaint.
The opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have sought the minister’s resignation saying he violated the oath of office by now forcing a sexual harassment victim to withdraw her complaint. But the minister defended his action saying he called up the father since both (accused and complainant) were members of the NCP and he wanted to know about the issue. He claimed that he backed out after he came to know harassment charges were also involved.
Police said the woman filed a police complaint on June 28 in which she alleged that NCP state executive member G Padmakaran caught hold of her hand and tried to molest her inside the hotel of the accused in March. She said he wanted to know why she joined the BJP when everyone else in her family belonged to the NCP. She alleged that he caught hold of her hand suddenly saying if she joined BJP for money, he could have given it.
The woman said initially she did not have the courage to take up the matter but when the accused started making abusive comments on social media, she decided to file the police complaint.
In the audio, the father purportedly mentions the NCP leader’s behaviour towards his daughter. At this point, the minister is heard saying “settle it in a good manner.” The father was heard again saying his daughter is in the BJP, not in the NCP now. He was also heard asking the minister how can he settle such issues amicably? Later both, the woman and her father claimed that they were pressurised to withdraw the complaint.
Saseendran denied the allegations. “Since both belong to the NCP, I made an inquiry. I never pressurised either the father or daughter,” he said.
Ruling Communist Party of Indian (Marxist) acting secretary A Vijayarghavan said he was unaware of the issue and will react only after studying it. .
The Congress sought Saseendran’s resignation. “He has no right to continue in power,” said opposition leader V D Satheesan.
Youth Congress leader Veena Nair met Governor Arif Mohammad Khan and sough Saseendran’s removal.
BJP state president K Surendran said, “He (Saseendran) has violated his oath of office forcing the victim to withdraw a sexual harassment case.”
NCP state president P C Chacko dismissed all charges against the minister and said he was only trying to ascertain facts.