THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Barely a week after taking charge in 2016, the Pinarayi Vijayan government appointed Jacob Thomas as director of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau.
His appointment was widely welcomed as the previous UDF government had booted him out from vigilance for taking tough stand on corruption cases. In many ways the posting was also seen as a reward for his strong stand against UDF leaders in bar bribery case.
Mr Thomas took charge in a dramatic manner pulling out red and yellow cards from his pocket. The officer sought to send out a strong warning to the corrupt that they would not be spared. But soon the officer put the government in a tight spot as he targeted senior officers.
The raids on the houses of the then additional chief secretaries K.M. Abraham and Tom Jose led to a major tiff with IAS officers who threatened to go on mass leave.
The High Court criticised him twice "for overstepping his constitutional bounds to establish a Vigilance Raj in Kerala." An HC Bench even questioned his continuance as VACB chief following which Pinarayi Vijayan asked him to go on leave.
Mr Thomas courted a major controversy when he released his controversial service story 'Sravukalkoppam Neenthumpol' (swimming along with sharks). An inquiry conducted by additional chief secretary (home) found many portions in the controversial book violative of service rules.
Initially the government ordered criminal proceedings against him but later restricted it to disciplinary action. But it was his public criticism of the government in handling the Ockhi cyclone that led to the officer's suspension which continued for nearly two years.
While many see the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) verdict as a major setback for the chief minister and LDF Government, Mr Thomas believes it will bring relief to officers who take a strong stand against corruption. The officer whose application for voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) is pending before the Centre is not in a hurry to get back to work. "If they give nod I will take VRS. If they don't then let them give me posting. In both cases I am happy," he said.
So will be work under a government which not only kept him out of service for two years but also questioned his integrity? Mr Thomas says he has no problem in working under the government if people feel his services are required. "I don't have anger or vengeance against anyone," he told a news channel.
The officer promises that he will continue to call a spade a spade irrespective of the posting he gets. But many say with Mr Thomas appearing in BJP and RSS programmes of late, a foray into political arena cannot be ruled out completely. And Mr Thomas is known for springing surprises....