Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala’s ruling Congress-led UDF suffered a blow on Thursday as a court ordered an FIR to be filed in the solar panel scam against Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who claimed innocence and rejected opposition calls to resign.
And even as Saritha Nair, one of the main accused in the scandal and who hurled bribery allegations against the chief minister on Wednesday, threatened on Thursday to prove that Chandy was very much guilty, the UDF lost a RSP legislator, who said he was disgusted with Chandy’s government.
A court in Thrissur told Kerala’s vigilance department to file a First Information Report (FIR) against Chandy on corruption charges in what has come to be known as the “solar scam”.
The Thrissur Vigilance Court also directed a FIR to be registered against Power Minister Aryadan Mohammed.
This followed a petition by activist P.D. Joseph after Saritha Nair told a judicial commission that she gave Rs.1.90 crore in bribes to Chandy in two instalments.
The developments have come at a time when the United Democratic Front faces assembly elections only months away. The opposition Left immediately asked Chandy to resign.
CPI-M leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said: “The court has made its intentions clear through the FIR, and Chandy has only one way now to go forward and that is to quit at the earliest.”
In New Delhi, BJP leader and union minister Nirmala Sitharaman said: “The charges against the chief minister and the power minister are of very serious nature and we demand their resignations.”
Chandy maintained in Malappuram that he had a clear conscience.
“I have done no wrong. I will face the probe and cooperate with it,” he said. Asked if would resign, Chandy shot back: “For what?”
The scam erupted in 2013 when a company, Team Solar, allegedly used two women to weave political contacts and duped several influential people of large sums of money by offering to make them business partners or by setting up solar panels.
Saritha Nair said on Wednesday that the money she paid to Chandy was part of the Rs.7 crore demanded by him. She said she also gave Rs.40 lakh to minister Mohammed.
Even as Chandy said he had done no wrong, she said the truth was otherwise.
“After the unbearable tension of carrying all this on my head for the past more than three years, now I feel very relaxed as I am speaking the truth. I will prove through evidence that Chandy is wrong and I am right.”
Nair and her live-in partner Biju Radhakrishnan were arrested in the scandal in 2013 on charges of cheating numerous investors, who paid money for solar panels. While Saritha Nair is out on bail, Radhakrishnan is in jail after being accused of murdering his first wife.
In Thiruvananthapuram, RSP’s Kovoor Kunjumon quit the Kerala assembly, saying he was disgusted with the UDF government, and pledged to rejoin the Left.
The Revolutionary Socialist Party has three legislators. With Kunjumon leaving, the strength of the house has come down to 138 and Chandy now has the support of 72 legislators. The Left commands 66 legislators in the 140-seat house.
Kunjumon said: “For seven months, I am unable to show my face to cashew factory workers (in my constituency) as all the factories are closed.
“Others may not know their feelings, but I know it because I am the son of a cashew factory worker. Along with our supporters, we will form the real RSP and will align with the Left,” he said.
Kunjumon was elected to the assembly in 2001, 2006 and 2011 when his party was with the Left. Ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, he joined the UDF.