Second senior Kerala CPI leader quits over ‘payment seat’ scam

Lokayukta had earlier rejected CPI claim that the anti-corruption ombudsman did not have the powers to conduct such a probe.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: December 14, 2014 3:08 am

Kerala unit of CPI, the second leading constituent of the Opposition, Left Democratic Front, is still in turmoil over making a Church nominee as its candidate in the last LS elections after taking a huge sum from him. The issue had contributed the usage of “payment seat” in electoral politics in Kerala.

On Saturday, senior CPI leader P Ramachandran Nair quit from the primary membership of the party, saying that he would approach the Lokayukta demanding that senior CPI leaders should be made accused in the ongoing probe into the allegation that party took money to make a person candidate. Nair had been a former district secretary of the party in the state capital and had contested against Congress’ Shashi Tharoor in 2009.

Acting upon a complaint that CPI had taken money from Dr Bennet Abraham to make him LDF candidate in the LS election in Thiruvananthapuram constituency, Lokayukta has initiated a probe in the issue. Lokayukta had earlier rejected CPI claim that the anti-corruption ombudsman did not have the powers to conduct such a probe.

After Abraham, member of Church of South India, was made CPI candidate in Thiruvananthapuram, a section of party leaders had protested. They said the party had allotted Thiruvananthapuram seat to an independent candidate as a payment seat.

When the results were out, Congress’ Shashi Tharoor won from the seat and CPI’s candidate finished third after BJP’s O Rajagopal. The poll outcome forced the CPI to conduct a probe into the unimpressive show of the party’s independent candidate. A party panel probe had found that CPI leaders had taken Rs 1.87 crore from Abraham to make him a candidate.

Following the inquiry, Nair and another senior leader C Divakaran were removed from party state executive and V Sasi as party district secretary. Alleging that he was made a victim of factionalism in the party, Sasi immediately quit the party and joined RSP, now a constituent of the Congress-led United Democratic Front.On Saturday, Nair became the second senior leader to quit from the party over payment seat controversy. Nair told the media that he would approach the Lokayukta demanding that party state secretariat members should be made accused in its probe into the scam. Gunning for party state secretary Pannian Raveendran, Nair said party state secretary cannot run away from the responsibility of the payment seat scam. The probe panel had indicted Raveendran, but he did not reveal that decision to the media, said Nair.

On Saturday, Nair became the second senior leader to quit from the party over payment seat controversy. Nair told the media that he would approach the Lokayukta demanding that party state secretariat members should be made accused in its probe into the scam. Gunning for party state secretary Pannian Raveendran, Nair said party state secretary cannot run away from the responsibility of the payment seat scam. The probe panel had indicted Raveendran, but he did not reveal that decision to the media, said Nair.

The unprecedented practice of taking money from an outsider to allot him candidature has been hunting the CPI since last LS elections. The present day CPI leaders in Kerala have been basking in the reflected glory of leaders of yesterdays such as N E Balram, V V Raghavan, P K Vasudevan Nair and C K Chandrappan. The present leadership of the party kept driving home the image that “CPI is a different party.”

But, the issue had shaken the moral ground of the CPI to take on corruption charges against rivals. Even CPI (M), leading element in the LDF, had taken the sail out of the CPI on the issue, several times. CPI (M) leaders had openly used the payment seat issue to effectively silence CPI.

Earlier this week, while CPI raised the issue of corruption in the public works department, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy embarrassed the CPI legislator by raising the payment seat issue.

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