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The Congress must ask Oommen Chandy to quit as Kerala CM to restore the party’s credibility.

Updated: January 29, 2016 12:27:48 am
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The recent developments in the solar corruption scandal have made Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s continuance in office morally untenable. With the state set for assembly elections in a few months, it may be a tough call for the Congress leadership to ask its chief minister to quit office. But any more waffling on this issue will only expose the Congress’s claims to observing probity in public life and may further erode its credibility.

On Wednesday, Saritha Nair, an accused in the solar scam, deposed before a judicial commission that she had paid a bribe of Rs 1.90 crore to Chandy through his personal aides to get clearances to set up power projects in the state. An audio of a conversation, purportedly between a Chandy confidant and Nair, also surfaced, in which Nair is being tutored ahead of her submission before the commission. On Thursday, a vigilance court ordered that an FIR be filed against Chandy on the basis of Nair’s deposition. Two of Chandy’s ministerial colleagues had resigned when courts made similar interventions in another corruption case. Chandy, however, has refused to quit, claiming a clear conscience. His defence is unconvincing, especially since his office had been implicated in the scandal even earlier. Nair’s phone calls were traced to the CM’s office and Chandy had to sack three of his personal aides. Moreover, depositions by senior police officials in recent weeks hint at attempts by influential public officials to cajole, convince and coerce Nair to withdraw remarks and submissions that implicate the government. Never before has the legitimacy of a government in Kerala been undermined as in the case of the Chandy administration. Chandy’s version of the Congress, surely, is not what Rahul Gandhi would want to propose as a national alternative.

The solar scandal has reduced Kerala politics to a TV spectacle. A major preoccupation of the Chandy government in the past two years has been to manage Nair, who kept the media interested in her by presenting herself as a victim of the political class’s predatory instincts. All this happened when the state is staring at a serious economic crisis with Gulf remittances slowing and prices of cash crops falling steeply. A con artist who used her charms to influence legislators and possibly rob the public exchequer has revealed the decline in the state’s political culture. It may take the Congress a while to recover from the shame.

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