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Kerala Minister resigns over land grab charges

Last Modified Wednesday, 15 November 2017 (17:23 IST)
Thiruvananthapuram: Faced with charges of land grab, Kerala Transport Minister and leader Thomas Chandy today submitted his resignation from the Pinarayi Vijayan Cabinet, thus becoming the third minister to step down from the Left Front government that came to power on the promise of corruption-free governance.

While nepotism, corruption and sleaze talk forced other two ministers -- senior CPI(M) member E P Jayarajan and NCP leader A K Saseendran -- to resign from the 17-month-old Ministry, the businessman-turned politician stepped down a day after High Court issued adverse remarks against him in the backwater encroachment issue.

He forwarded his resignation letter to the Chief Minister through NCP State President T P Peethambaran this afternoon, after witnessing a series of hectic political developments. The day also witnessed the CPI, the second largest constituent of the ruling coalition, boycotting the weekly Cabinet meeting in protest against the tainted minister participating in it. 

'I have received the letter and forwarded it to the Governor. The rest of the issues will be decided later,' the Chief Minister said in reply to a question on whether there will be a new nominee to replace Mr Chandy in the Cabinet. A three-time MLA from Kuttanad, Mr Thomas Chandy, one of the wealthiest legislators in the Assembly, was inducted into the Pinarayi cabinet in April after party nominee Saseendran resigned over sleaze talk.

Mr Chandy was forced to resign after Kerala High Court rejected a writ petition filed by him, challenging the report submitted by the Alappuzha District Collector stating that the Minister has violated law in a backwater encroachment. The court observed that it would be better for the Minister to step down and fight the issue legally as a common citizen.

A Cabinet Minister cannot approach the Court against the Government it said. The NCP has two members in the 140-member state Assembly. The other MLA, Saseendran is facing cases in connection with the sleaze talk. Though the CPI strongly opposed to any condition linked to the resignation, it is likely that the post would be kept vacant till any of the two members came clean from the cases.

Sources said Mr Chandy would move the Supreme Court challenging the High Court verdict. It was speculated that Mr Chandy would resign in the morning itself after he called on the Chief Minister at his official residence Cliff House at 0800 hrs.After the crucial meeting, Mr Chandy made it clear that he would attend today's Cabinet meeting.He drove straight to the state Secretariat, prompting all the four ministers of the CPI to boycott the meeting.

Agriculture Minister Sunilkumar, Civil Supplies Minister Thilothaman, Forest Minister K.Raju and Revenue Minister Chandrasekharan sent a note to the Chief Minister that CPI Ministers didn't like to attend cabinet meeting in protest against Mr Chandy's presence in the meeting.'Yes, it is unprecedented. I received a letter from them saying that they cannot participate in the meeting in which Mr Chandy is also participating,' the Chief Minister told newspersons here.

The CPI ministers should not have taken such a decision, he said, adding that as a minister, Mr Chandy had the right to attend the Cabinet meeting.He made it clear that the Cabinet had not discussed any issues relating to Mr Chandy, However, the Chief Minister said the NCP state leadership sought some more time to discuss the matter with their National leadership.

An appropriate decision would be taken once the NCP leadership conveyed their decision.Soon after the Cabinet meeting, NCP leadership held a meeting and took a stand that the Minister should step down. Subsequently, Mr Chandy prepared the resignation letter and authorised the party state president to hand it over to the Chief Minister. Then, he left for Kochi in his official car with police escort. (UNI)
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