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Dissent in Kerala Left over kickback case

Party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan's name has allegedly cropped up in the kickback issue, reports Ramesh Babu.

india Updated: Nov 23, 2006 02:45 IST

The Left hand does not know what the right hand is doing: this is an apt description of the Left Front government's style of functioning. Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, his council of ministers and the party seem to be at completely different levels and have made it a habit of contradicting each other.

The latest contradiction is regarding the government's stand on the Lavalin power kickback issue, in which party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan's name has allegedly cropped up.

On a directive from the home department, Advocate General Sudhakar Prasad on Wednesday told the Kerala High Court that there was no need to hand over the case to the CBI. Incidentally, home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is in the Pinarayi camp.

Minutes later, VS said the government had taken no such decision. "My government has not decided to wind up any corruption case," he told mediapersons. When his attention was drawn to the affidavit filed in the high court, he said: "I do not know how it happened. I have to study it."

This is not an off-the-cuff remark. With many challenging his position both in the party and government, VS needs a weapon to keep his detractors in the party in check. Knowing full well that the power deal, in which the state government lost Rs 90 crore, short-circuited Pinarayi's claim to the chief minister's chair, he wants to keep the pot boiling. He is in no mood to give the party secretary a clean chit.

Smelling opportunity in the growing dissension, the Opposition is now trying to give the government some grief on the issue. "We do not know who is ruling the state, the chief minister or the advocate general," PCC chief Ramesh Chennithala said.

The previous LDF regime headed by EK Nayanar had awarded a Rs 3.74 billion contract to Canadian power giant SNC Lavalin to supply equipment for the renovation of the Pallivasal, Sengulam and Panniyar hydroelectric projects.

Lavalin failed to honour its commitment to mobilize Rs 90 crore for the Malabar cancer centre in Kannur district in return for the contract. The government had overlooked the claim of Bharat Heavy Electronic Limited, which had quoted a lesser price, to award the contract to the Canadian firm. Pinarayi had been electricity minister then.

Last week, the CBI director filed an affidavit in the high court stating there was no need for a CBI inquiry as a vigilance probe was on.

The decision baffled political and legal circles, who felt it was a "flimsy reason" to overlook an important case.

First Published: Nov 23, 2006 02:45 IST