Balakrishna Pillai the only convict
From rice scandal to bar bribery, Kerala has been witnessing a host of corruption allegations against politicians over the last 60 years. Cutting across party lines, over a dozen ministers had to resign and governments shaken following corruption allegations.
But there is only one leading politician who was sent behind the bars in a corruption scandal in the state and that is Kerala Congress (B) chairman R. Balakrishna Pillai. Though he managed to get rid of a couple of corruption cases, in the Idamalayar case pertaining to corruption in the construction of the power tunnel of the Idamalayar Hydroelectric Project, he was sentenced to one-year imprisonment. But being a partner of the present UDF government at that time, Pillai had to spent only 69 days in prison and 87 days of 'sentence' at a multi-specialty hospital citing illness, before he was released under a general remission.
The first state government led by E. M. S. Namboothiripad was rocked by the infamous Rice Scandal that pertained to alleged corruption in the purchase of rice from Andhra Pradesh. T. O. Bava of the Congress raised the allegation that the purchase made without floating tenders caused a loss of Rs 16.50 lakh to the exchequer. K. C. George was the then food minister. A probe was ordered under the Commission of Inquires Act, 1952 and Justice P. T. Raman Nair was the inquiry commission. Though the commission’s report confirmed the monetary loss, it also suggested that no one in the ministry made any personal gains. The government tabled the report in the Assembly, but with a dissent note and rejected the demand for K. C. George’s resignation.
Barrage of allegations
The 1982-87 ministry led by K. Karunakaran witnessed a series of corruption allegations that even led to the resignation of three ministers. Then Irrigation Minister M. P. Gangadharan faced allegations of marrying off his minor daughter as well as corruption in the purchase of pipes. While then excise minister N. Srinivasan faced allegation of nexus with liquor barons, health minister K. P. Ramachandran faced allegations of nepotism in the transfer of doctors. Though probes were initiated in some allegations, none of those reached logical conclusions for one reason or the other.
Kerala Congress (B) leader R. Balakrishna Pillai, who was a power minister in the K. Karunakaran government of 1982-87 faced allegation of irregularities in the sale of power from the state to Karnataka-based Graphite Industries. A vigilance probe was ordered. The case was in three modules. Once the Supreme Court acquitted Mr Pillai in the first module, the A. K. Antony government of 2001-04 withdrew the second and third modules on the basis of a request by Balakrishna Pillai, despite allegations that the second and third modules differed from the first. Interestingly, Pillai was also a member in the Antony ministry that decided to withdrew the case.
Muvattupuzha irrigation project
Former irrigation minister T. M. Jacob faced the allegation of causingloss to the tune of Rs 2.5 crore to the state government by introducing a new system called ‘[contractors’ own material’ for the Muvattupuzha valley irrigation project. Vigilance closed the investigation against Jacob stating that the case was a “mistake of facts”. Mr Jacob also faced corruption allegation in the Kuriyarkutti Karappara, but was acquitted by the High Court.
One of the most discussed corruption cases in the state is the Palmolein corruption case. Though Congress stalwart K. Karunkaran was the key politician accused in the case, it even put present Chief Minister Oommen Chandy under the scanner. The case pertained to corruption in the import of Palmoil from Malaysia during 1991-92. In 2006, the UDF government led by Oommen Chandy, who was the finance minister during the time of the deal, decided to withdraw the case which was charge sheeted by the Vigilance. But the subsequent LDF government revoked the decision. Former civil supplies minister T. H. Musthafa was also an accused in the case. The case was still caught up in legal tangles and Karunakaran was removed from the list of accused following his death.
A major hurdle in the parliamentary career of CPM stalwart Pinarayi Vijayan, the Rs 375-crore SNC Lavalin case pertained to the the deal between KSEB and Canadian firm SNC Lavalin for the renovation of Pallivasal, Shenkulam and Panniyar power projects in 1995 while Mr Vijayan was the power minister. As part of the deal, a financial assistance of Rs 98 crore was offered for the Malabar Cancer Centre. However, only Rs 8.98 crore was received by the cancer centre. In a relief to Vijayan, the CBI special court discharged him from the case. But the CBI has filed an appeal at the High Court, which is still pending.
Nexus with sandal mafia
K. P. Viswanathan, who was the forest minister in the Oommen Chandy government of 2004-06, had to put in his papers subsequent to a High Court remark that a lobby including the forest minister was having a nexus with sandal smuggling rackets. But he was acquitted of the charges by the court later. Even Chandy had recently lamented over accepting Mr Viswanathan’s resignation.
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