Kerala: Clip of lewd phone call aired, minister quits

The eight-minute-long clip was telecast on Sunday morning by Mangalam TV, a private channel that was launched on Saturday night by the Kottayam-based Mangalam publications.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: March 27, 2017 11:17 am
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KERALA TRANSPORT Minister and NCP leader A K Saseendran resigned on Sunday, hours after a newly launched private TV channel telecast the audio clip of a purported telephone conversation with sexual overtones, which it claimed was between the minister and a woman who had approached him for help. The 71-year-old, a member of the NCP’s national executive, is the second minister to quit Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s 10-month-old cabinet. Last October, CPI(M) central committee member E P Jayarajan had to resign as Industries Minister following charges of nepotism in appointments to public sector undertakings. The eight-minute-long clip of a male voice was telecast on Sunday morning by Mangalam TV, a private channel that was launched on Saturday night by the Kottayam-based Mangalam publications. It was accompanied by an advisory that the content was not appropriate for children.

By afternoon, Vijayan told reporters that the issue was serious and that the veracity of the clip needed to be ascertained. Soon, however, Saseendran announced his resignation in Kozhikode. “I am quitting to uphold political morality. My resignation is not a confession. There was no lapse on my part. I have always behaved in an appropriate manner with people who approached me seeking help. I have asked the Chief Minister for a detailed probe. But I should not continue as a minister while the probe is being conducted,” Saseendran told reporters. “I am confident that I can prove my innocence. More than the right and wrong of the issue, I am upholding the political morality of the Left. I should not become the reason for a Left worker to hang his head in shame. But I will continue as a legislator,’’ he said.

When contacted, Mangalam TV CEO Ajith Kumar said the woman had contacted the channel “through a mobile number we had made public to alert Mangalam about corruption”. “She is not ready to come before the media or file a complaint with police. The recorded incident had happened a month ago. We have two hours of audio clips. The woman said that she had no prior acquaintance with the Minister. The woman said that when she approached the minister with the petition, he started harassing her through phone calls. When it became nasty, she approached us with the recorded conversation,’’ said Kumar.

Saseendran’s exit is a severe setback for the Vijayan government, which is already buffeted by several controversies relating to alleged shortcomings in governance. The scandal has also provided an unexpected boost to the Congress-led Opposition for the bypoll to the Malappuram Lok Sabha seat on April 12. Saseendran, who represents Elathur constituency in Kozhikode, has been a legislator since 2006. Prior to that, he had been elected to the assembly in 1980 and 1982. The NCP has only two legislators in the Kerala assembly.

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