Lavalin: How state lost out in political slugfest

Two justices recused themselves from hearing the petition, though without assigning any reason.

Is it sheer coincidence that the State Government’s review petition in the Lavalin case came up for admission in the High Court the same day CPM politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan, a key party to the case, kicked-off his Navakerala Yatra from Kumbala in northern Kasargod?

Perhaps not, because the petition was in virtual limbo for over two years.

The Government, arguably concerned about a certain loss to the exchequer on account of the skewed contract, could have preferred a review petition anytime before. Two justices recused themselves from hearing the petition, though without assigning any reason.

It also begs an answer why the CPM leaders, who accuse Chief Minister Oommen Chandy of timing the petition to embarrass the LDF during the Assembly polls, did not move HC to cut through the delay and remove the scope for misgivings about Mr Vijayan, tipped to be the LDF nominee for CM. Quite intriguing, because it was the straight and simple course to take.

Now the Court has rejected the charge of vendetta politics in the timing of the review petition, found substance in the plea and posted the case for final hearing in February third week. It is still not too late for the CPM to line up a battery of lawyers and try to convince the court what possibly went wrong, especially how Mr Vjiayan’s team failed to plug loopholes that helped Lavalin fleece the State.

But, in retrospect, it remains a puzzle why rival political fronts did not stop their slanging match and join hands to petition Canadian Government to repatriate Rs 98 crore, promised in return for converting the original consultancy into a supply contract for the modernisation and renovation of Sengulam, Pallivasal and Panniyar hydel projects. If the political bosses were genuine in recouping the loss, such a step was logical.

Mr Vijayan, then power minister, visited Canada twice to clinch what was touted as a win-win deal because the backward Malabar region would get a modern cancer centre as part of Lavalin’s humanitarian outreach.

The offer, which was never read into a contract, was made by Lavalin officials in the presence of Canadian International Development Agency. Mr Vijayan was present at the meeting, strangely unaccompanied by technical experts from KSEB. It may have been his overconfidence or plain ineptness. It is for the court to discern whether there was anything further to it.

Mr Vijayan is engaged in the most important political mission in his life. It is like now or never. His juggernaut has started rolling towards the Secretariat but there is an eerie silence in the air. Opposition leader V. S. Achuthanandan did not for once mention Mr Vijayan by name while delivering the keynote address at Kumbala. What Mr Achuthanandan did not say there will be debated more than what he said.

( Source : deccan chronicle )
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