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Solar plant scam: Kerala leader’s aides zapped

Sacked duo alleged to have links with the lynchpin of the racket

Gulf News

Thiruvananthapuram: The political firestorm over the solar plant scam in Kerala gathered force on Friday, when two staff members in chief minister Oommen Chandy’s office were expelled, revealing the pressure on the government over the allegations levelled against the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) in connection with the racket.

The chief minister’s personal assistant, Tenny Joppan, and gunman Salim Raj were removed from their posts on Friday in the backdrop of allegations against them. The two are alleged to have links with the lynchpin of the scam, Sarita S. Nair, who collected huge sums from different investors, promising them handsome returns by investing the money in solar plants and windmills in Tamil Nadu. Nair is in police custody, and police are still on the lookout for her husband.

Chandy informed the state assembly that Joppan and Raj were being removed from their posts to ensure a fair investigation into the matter. A preliminary report has been provided by additional director general of police Hemachandran.

In a related development, the government chief whip P.C. George came to the fore claiming he had warned both Joppan and Chandy about Sarita Nair’s murky dealings. George’s statement prompted Communist Party of India Marxist leader Kodiyeri Balakrishnan to demand a judicial inquiry into the matter. Balakrishnan called for Chandy to resign and institute a judicial inquiry into the scam and its links to the CMO.

Chandy, however, said George had informed him about the matter only after Nair had been arrested.

The opposition staged a walkout in the state legislature after the government turned down the demand for a judicial inquiry. Intelligence officials have already given a report about telephone calls to Nair from a telephone at the chief minister’s office.

The opposition has also voiced its annoyance over the fact that Nair has been allowed to make telephone calls even while in custody. Television channels have shown her making mobile phone calls while in police custody.

There are over a dozen complaints against Nair in different places in the state for having cheated people to the tune of millions of rupees, promising them good returns from investments in the renewable energy business. In a related development, the Aranmula police are also seeking to question Nair, stating that there are complaints against her related to cases of dishonoured cheques that date back to 2003-04.

Interestingly, the expulsion of staff from Chandy’s office follows the sacking of three staff members of opposition leader V.S. Achuthanandan by the CPM. The trio who were expelled for violating party discipline were Achuthanandan’ s aide A. Suresh, press secretary Balakrishnan and additional private secretary V.K. Sasidharan.