Former chief minister Oommen Chandy wrote a letter to the state public relations officer in the office of the chief secretary last Thursday. The two-time chief minister wanted a copy of the report submitted by the judicial commission that probed the links between a shady solar firm and the previous United Democratic Front (UDF) government.
Chandy was caught off guard when the government decided to slap sexual harassment charge on him on the basis of the commission’s findings. Chandy followed up on the request for a copy of the report, but to no avail.
If Chandy wanted a peek into Pinarayi’s mind, he could have probably called up M.M. Lawrence and K.N. Raveendranath, the CPM veterans who faced disciplinary action in the party on the basis of an internal inquiry commission report. The central committee members wanted a copy of the report which found them ‘guilty.’ But Pinarayi, the then state secretary of the CPM, would not part with it. They had to write to party general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet to get a glimpse of the charges against them.
This time around, Pinarayi is dealing with people’s representatives including a former chief minister. The battle lines are drawn between Chandy and Pinarayi, the power centers in Kerala politics.
Pinarayi was determined when he announced legal action against Chandy and other top leaders of the UDF after a cabinet meeting. His shots have hit the right spot. Pinarayi hopes to neutralize the Congress for a long time by keeping the threat alive. He even succeeded to rattle the national leadership of the Congress by targeting AICC general secretary K.C. Venugopal, who is expected to oversee the party affairs in poll-bound Karnataka.
He also took a snipe at his own party boss Sitaram Yechury who has been batting for a national alliance with the Congress to counter the BJP juggernaut. He also wanted to send a political message: that the CPM still considered the Congress, not the BJP, its main opponent in Kerala.
If someone in the CPM’s cultural sphere still wondered how the government could go after such a popular actor like Dileep, they have the answer now.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi rightly judged the crisis in Kerala before summoning Chandy and other senior leaders to Delhi. Rahul Gandhi held one-on-one sessions with Chandy, Ramesh Chennithala, V.M. Sudheeran, M.M. Hassan, and V.D. Satheesan but desisted from taking up the issue during a common discussion later.
Chandy puts up a brave face in his circles but he admits to the missteps including the framing of the scope of the commission’s inquiry and the extensions allowed to the commission during his tenure as CM.
His critics remind him of the arguments that the commission’s scope could have been limited to the financial transactions of the solar firm. He is not even sure if he could expect from other Congressmen the same level of emotional support extended by the ‘A’ group of the party.
As soon as Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi offered the party leadership’s support to Chandy in the solar issue, Sudheeran termed the issue serious. Satheesan sought to clear the air and said the high command had not taken any decision.
Chandy’s confidence may not be unfounded. Saritha Nair, whose letter forms the basis of the legal action against him, has not registered a complaint against any leader except A.P. Abdullakutty. Saritha's letter, in which she names her tormentors, was presented to the commission by a mediaperson and not Saritha.
In short, Chandy and others face action in a case which has no complainants yet. Projecting Saritha as a victim and Chandy as the representative of her tormentors is a huge gamble by the chief minister.