A little sunlight

Oommen Chandy’s announcement of a judicial probe in the solar scam should have come sooner

Written by The Indian Express | Published: August 14, 2013 12:09 am

Oommen Chandy’s announcement of a judicial probe in the solar scam should have come sooner

After months of stubborn refusal,Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has finally announced a judicial investigation into the solar scam that has shaken his government. The decision came after the opposition LDF began an indefinite siege on the state secretariat. This may look like a climbdown on Chandy’s part,but it was the only way left to him in the war of perceptions that he seemed to be losing. This was a test not just of his integrity,but also of his political instincts.

The solar scam involves a company called Team Solar,which collected large advances from companies and affluent individuals and promised clean energy solutions. Media reports revealed how the couple who ran the operation had charmed and climbed their way into the highest government offices. The chief minister’s own image was dented when phone records revealed that his closest aides had links with the woman. A stream of media exposes bared all the nodes in the Team Solar network,which apparently stretched to prominent ministers,MPs,influential officials and fixers. The opposition went for broke,demanding the chief minister’s resignation. Chandy’s defence,which he put across in the assembly and in public,is that his open door policy allowed these people to claim a proximity they did not have. He also pointed out that the loss caused by this solar scam,to the tune of Rs 7 crore,did not involve any public money,and that a police SIT was already probing it. Whatever the truth may be,however,in public perception,Chandy’s admissions seemed grudging. He was seen to have chosen silence and opacity until forced by the media and opposition to explain and clarify. For a chief minister who has made much of his commitment to transparency,the fact is that Chandy failed to proactively disclose the nature of his acquaintance with Team Solar.

Pinning guilt in the solar scam is a task made difficult by the fraught climate in which the media revelations have come — made up of the political rivalry between the UDF and LDF,as well as the open tensions within the ruling coalition and state Congress. Now,the promise to institute an impartial judicial probe appears to have dissipated much of the heat on the matter. If Chandy had done this sooner,precious legislative time might have been saved. A brittle,unrelenting position rarely wins a political battle.

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