Kerala, the south Indian state which promotes itself as the God’s own Country, has been in the news headlines, courtesy the solar scam which has been valued at around Rs. 10 crore. The state is unlike Tamil Nadu which has a more vibrant and loud political picture. The power structure is also unique wherein two political groups of LDF (comprising of the Left parties) and the ruling UDF (comprising of the Congress led right wing parties) have been sharing power alternately since the late 1950s.
The scam was unearthed when several cases were registered against a company called Team Solar in almost all the districts of Kerala. The company duped many people in Kerala by collecting advance payments and in return promised to install solar power units. Saritha Nair, an actress from the Malayalam film industry and Biju Radhakrishnan were the main accused. The actress used her clout and popularity to lure many customers into investment and advance payment but when the customers demanded for the next move which was to install the alternative energy units, Team Solar and its members were found nowhere to respond. The case took an ugly turn for the ruling UDF when the scam was linked to the Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy’s office.
It has been reported that the prime accused, Saritha Nair, had made and received repeated calls from three officials of the Chief Minister’s office, including the CM’s chief aide Tenny Joppan, who has been subsequently dismissed and arrested. It has been speculated that the actress was made a director only to use her popularity and lure the customers and the roots of the scam can have more politicos in the net. As of now, four persons have been put behind bars including the popular Malayalam actress and danseuse, Shalu Menon.
The mastermind behind the scam has been Biju Radhakrishnan, who was arrested in Coimbatore by a special division of the Kollam Crime Branch CID. It is interesting to note that Radhakrishnan was already the prime accused in his wife, Rashmi’s murder but was not arrested. However, upon being arrested in relation to the solar scam, he confessed to his earlier crime of having mixed poison in liquor and offering the same to his wife. Shalu Menon had earlier denied her role in the case but reports started to surface when she was seen photographed with Radhakrishnan handing over the keys of a brand new car to her.
The case took a twist when the prime accused, Nair, offered the court to make a secret confession which was put forward by her counsel Fenny Balakrishnan. Many investigators claim this secret statement from Nair could completely alter the direction of the investigation and bring in people and officials from the higher echelons of the bureaucracy and the government. Another person who surrendered to the police after his request for an anticipatory bail was rejected is A Feroz, government official and was accused of duping a builder of 40 lakh rupees in collusion with Nair and Radhakrishnan.
As of now, four Cabinet ministers of Kerala government, three MLAs and a number of government officials from the bureaucracy along with a junior minister in the union government have been pulled in by the convicted women and their phone calls bringing in much embarrassment to the Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy. The opposition Left, led by the former CM, VS Achuthanandan has gone on for a rigorous protest along with the Left student wings headed by the SFI. These protests led to the siege of the Kerala Secretariat on 12 August for a period of 30 hours and was presided by prominent leaders like the former PM, HD Devegowda and the CPI(M) General Secretary, Prakash Karat. The CM Oommen Chandy’s name was alleged into the scam by a quarry owner, Sridharan Nair, who accused the CM of having a meeting with him along with Nair, the prime accused of the scam. The opposition has demanded immediate resignation of the CM but Chandy has refuted all the allegations against him in the assembly.
In a state where electoral fortunes swing rather predictably, it would be interesting to find the sum of money that has been guzzled up by the scam and at the same time the people from the government who are engulfed in the net of the investigation agencies.
The image of Kerala, which is trying to lure investments from industrialists and technocrats, has taken a severe beating from the solar scam. Although, the initial losses have been estimated at Rs. 10 crores, the investigating agencies have not ruled out this figure to touch higher proportions when the probe is conducted by the CBI.
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