Saritha Nair and her live-in partner and business associate Biju Radhakrishnan are the two principal accused in the now in-famous ‘Solar Scam’ that is rocking the political foundation of the ruling UDF and its Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy.
The scandal has thrown up names of several well-known politicians, government officials and businessmen, all allegedly involved in the scam in some way. With each passing day the scam is getting more salacious and murkier, with sensational allegations and accusations coming to light.
Genesis of the solar scam
It was way back in 2011, when Saritha Nair and her business partner Biju Radhakrishnan formed Team Solar Renewable Energy Company, ostensibly to promote development and commissioning of solar projects in the state.
The company collected large sums of money from various businessmen and investors by promising them a share in the business or by way of committing to set up a solar power generating unit at their business premises.
Their modus operandi was to develop contacts with leading politicians and businessmen in the state through well publicized functions. They offered the ‘Virgin Earth Golden Feather Environment Award’ to public personalities and businessmen in well publicized public events. The photo-op sessions and media coverage gave them both publicity and credibility to further attract others to the project.
Renewable energy was becoming popular and anyone associated with it in the period post 2011 attracted a lot of attention, and Saritha Nair was in the middle of it. She soon cultivated contacts in the Chief Minister’s office and was seen to have easy access to both the CM’s office and residence.
The scandal becomes public
The Rs 7 crore Solar Scam first made news when one Narayanan Namboothiri of Plakkudi Illam filed a police complaint at Ambalapuzha in Kerala. The complainant accused Saritha Nair of extorting Rs 74 lakh for starting a solar plant in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. The project never materialized nor was the money returned.
Acting against this complaint, she was arrested on 18 June 2013 and sent to 14 day police custody. She subsequently spent nine months in jail and was released only in February 2014. Ever since, she has been making sensational allegations against several leading politicians regarding their involvement with her and the solar scam.
Dubious role of Biju Radhakrishnan
Biju Radhakrishnan and Saritha Nair are the two Directors in Team Solar. He has a dubious past as he is presently in jail for having admitted to murdering his wife, Rashmi, by serving her spiked liquor.
He has since been making sensational claims regarding those involved in the solar scam. Recently, in December 2015, deposing before a judicial commission, Biju claimed to be in possession of a CD that showed his partner, Saritha in a compromising position with the present CM Oommen Chandy and two of his cabinet colleagues. He, however, is yet to submit any hard evidence to back his allegations.
Saritha Nair hands over a controversial CD
On 1 Feb 2016, deposing before the judicial commission, Saritha Nair handed over a CD which contains recordings of her telephone conversations with Congress leaders Benny Behanan, Thampanoor Ravi, and CM’s security guard – Salim Raj, who has been sacked for his involvement in the scam.
While both Congress leaders are supposedly advising her not to implicate the CM, the tapes also contain recordings of Ravi Thampanoor instructing Saritha to involve another Congress leader Abdullakutty for raping her. She has since made an official complaint of rape against Abdullakutty under Section 164 of the CrPC. Saritha says that this was done to divert attention away from Oommen Chandy, on advise of Thampanoor.
The CD also contains a conversation between Saritha and one Abraham Kalamannil, a businessman said to be close to Chandy, in which he is heard advising her to destroy all evidence regarding the case. Saritha has alleged that Kalamannil approached her personal aide Vinu Kumar last week, just before she was to depose before the judicial commission, and told him to ensure Saritha made no statements implicating the CM.
Her other accusations
Saritha Nair has claimed that she was sexually exploited by several persons in power though she is yet to substantiate those allegations with any kind of proof.
After shielding the CM from being involved in the scam, she is now claiming that the CM is involved and that his former Personal Assistant Jikkumon, had demanded a Rs 7 crore bribe from her. She claimed that she was asked by Jikkumon to deliver the payment to one Thomas Kuruvilla, the CM’s confidante based in Delhi. She said that she delivered Rs 1.10 crore to Kuruvilla.
Saritha has claimed that she was a regular visitor to the CM’s official residence and office where she met the CM. She said that the CM wanted her to invest in another much larger solar project, in which his son, Chandy Oommen, was a supplier of solar panels. All charges have been refuted by the CM.
Furthermore, she has said that she paid Rs 40 lakh to the Personal Assistant to Power Minister Aryadan Muhammed.
Political fallout of the scandal
Ever since the solar scam caught media attention, the opposition led by LDF has been aggressively demanding that CM Chandy step down. The media has been relentless in discussing the salacious details of Saritha Nair and her allegations, and the fallout has singed the CM, who now has an FIR filed against him. While, the High Court has stepped in to stay his arrest, at least for now, the political fallout could prove costly for the CM, especially with assembly elections coming up.
The last word is yet to be written on this unsavory scandal and before that, it remains to be seen how many will pay the price for their involvement in the scam.
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