Alappuzha District Collector TV Anupama submitted the final report to the government into the alleged charges against Kerala Transport Minister Thomas Chandy pertaining to the encroachment of a section of the Marthandam Lake in Alappuzha district. Chandy, a businessman turned politicians has however denied the allegations being levelled against him.
Who is Thomas Chandy?
Thomas Chandy is the Transport Minister in the Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government in Kerala. Chandy is a member of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which allied itself with the CPM-led coalition in the 2016 Assembly elections. He defeated Jacob Abraham of the Kerala Congress (Mani) to win from the Kuttanad Assembly seat in Alappuzha district. Chandy was brought into the state cabinet following the resignation of fellow NCP leader AK Saseendran, who was allegedly caught on tape having a lewd conversation with a woman. Besides politics, Chandy has a range of business interests from owning schools in Kuwait to hospitality firms in India.
So what’s the controversy around Thomas Chandy?
Chandy faces allegations of having encroached upon a section of the Marthandam Lake in Alappuzha district in order to construct a parking spot and approach roads to the Lake Palace resort, that he owns along with a relative. An interim report submitted by Alappuzha district collector TV Anupama to the revenue department has purportedly confirmed that Chandy and his business associates violated rules pertaining to the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2008. The report has recommended the restoration of the levelled land along with strong action against revenue, water and agriculture department officials who played a role in the encroachment of land and paddy fields. The report was submitted following an investigation into the alleged land encroachment ordered by the revenue ministry.
Is there pressure on Chandy to resign?
Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan, who belongs to the CPI, met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday asking for legal action against Chandy in the backdrop of the Collector’s report. However, the chief minister has maintained a studied silence on it. Chandy, on his part, denied committing any wrongs and termed the allegations baseless. With the Congress demanding Chandy’s immediate exit from the cabinet, there is a lot of pressure on the NCP leader. It will up to CM Vijayan to decide on Chandy’s future in the cabinet.
What are the political repercussions if Chandy were to resign?
Pinarayi Vijayan, from the beginning of his term last year, has vowed that corruption will not be tolerated. In fact, after a judicial commission report pointed fingers at several top Congress leaders in the solar scandal, Vijayan was quick to order a vigilance inquiry against Oommen Chandy and several other leaders. This move was seen by the Congress as a political vendetta ploy.
If Thomas Chandy resigns, he would be the third minister to exit the cabinet in a year. Last year, Industries Minister EP Jayarajan, a close confidante of Vijayan, had stepped down following nepotism charges. Earlier this year, AK Saseendran, an NCP leader, resigned after he was caught in a ‘honeytrap’ making objectionable comments to a woman over the phone. If Chandy is ordered to resign, it will fly in the face of Vijayan’s commitment to maintaining a clean and transparent cabinet. At the same time, letting him stay would also be seen as tolerating corruption, a major issue in the state.