The Bar scam that rocked the Congress-led UDF government in Kerala has taken a new twist on Monday after the Bar Association Working President Biju Ramesh, released two audio clips involving him as well as government chief whip PC George and Kerala Congress (B) leader R Balakrishna Pillai.
The recorded telephonic conversations involved the three of them discussing the bar bribe issue and the two senior leaders offering support for the bar hotel owners to incriminate Finance Minister K M Mani in the case. The telephone talks reportedly took place on November 1 and 2 and the leaders have admitted to their recorded conversations. Biju Ramesh had earlier made allegations against Mani in the Bar scam case. Pillai, during the conversation with Ramesh had raised other corruption charges against Mani saying that he had taken bribe from the gold merchants, rice mill owners and bakery associations for not increasing their tax. He has also demanded a CBI probe against Mani. Mani is at present facing Vigilance probe on the charges of accepting bribe from the bar owners to renew their liquor license. The latest revelations are likely to bring trouble to the Minister who has demanded Pillai’s expulsion from the UDF for raising such allegations in public. Pillai also stated that he had already told the Chief Minister about Mani demanding bribes; but Chandy evaded the issue saying that he had not met Pillai as claimed.
The latest turn of the events plainly reinforce the fact that the Minister had demanded a huge bribe from different sectors in return for either a decreasing or nullifying their tax. The collection of tax is thus irregular and flexible. The state at present is going through a huge financial crisis with enormous debt uncleared and the people are aware of it. Their faith in the government and its eligibility to remain in power is at stake. The closed bars have not been reopened not because of the much hyped liquor ban but due to the delay in receiving the specified bribe by the concerned persons. A weaker Opposition makes things easier for Chandy to carry out his agendas; but it can’t be an excuse for him to maintain a silence on such crutial matters.
Mani should resign from his post in the wake of a sincere inquiry and any failure to do so should prompt the Chief Minister to expel him from the post and pave way for serious investigation to resolve the matter. The Vigilance probe against Mani is evidently slow-moving and has lesser chances of bringing out the truth so would be the expulsion of Pilla which has the least significance in patting an end to the bar issue.