Excise Minister K Babu resigned on Saturday after the Vigilance court ordered lodging an FIR against him in the infamous Bar Bribery scam, giving jitters to the Congress-led UDF government in Kerala ahead of the impending Assembly elections.
The Vigilance court directed the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau to register an FIR against the Minister over the bar bribery allegations ordering a probe under the court’s observation. Babu becomes the second Minister to quit following the allegations and hullaballoo related to the multi-crore scam after the former Finance Minister and Kerala Congress (M) supremo K M Mani, resigned in last November over the scandal. The Kerala High Court had made sharp observations against Mani then, over the allegations. Unlike Mani, Babu stepping down as soon as the court verdict was the opposite of what was anticipated might have saved him of all the humiliation which would have happened otherwise. Two prominent Ministers cornered in the same case with stinging allegations against them continuing to be raised, the court’s earlier observation that ‘“Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion’, is seemingly applicable to the whole of the UDF. Babu’s decision that he wouldn’t be continuing in power ‘on technical grounds’, is appropriate. Without getting into the worthiness merit of the issues and into the aspects of political morality in the bar bribery case as well as in other high-profile cases, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his Ministers have been trying to cling on to the technical loopholes in the legal discourses before the court so far. Even while the court verdicts and observations were contrary, they defended themselves with justifications that mocked common sense and rationality. The UDF government also resorted to moves that sabotaged corruption probes using power.
The government delayed the investigations ordered by the court, handled the officials in a way that confirmed the allegations by the opponents of hampering the probes and challenged the accusations instead of getting away from it. When situations went awry ridiculing the intervention of judiciary, it even led to the court banning the expression of opinions related to the case. The Vigilance court while ordering an FIR against Minister Babu, sharply criticized the government. It was hearing a petition filed on December 8 last year by Thrissur based Malayalavedi Chairman George Vattukulam who sought a vigilance inquiry against the Minister based on Biju Ramesh’s statements to the media. The court directed the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) to verify the allegations and submit a quick verification report before January 23. The vigilance had asked for more time to complete the inquiry even after one and half months of probe and had also refused to file FIR against Babu citing lack of evidence. The court questioned the sincerity of the Vigilance department observing that it was the responsibility of the government to collect evidences for the case. It raised the usual skepticisms over completing the preliminary enquiry procedures like verifying the accounts of the person who had allegedly received the bribe, the person who offered the money and so on. The court criticized that the case was being deliberately delayed also pointing fingers at the laxity of the investigation team. It also made sharp comments on the vigilance department over the delay in submitting the quick verification report.
The government despite all the accusations since it came to power and the skepticisms in the minds of people had played along right from the beginning. It tried to counter the opponents and those backing them on the basis of interests of coalition parties and raised counter allegations instead of ensuring transparency of governance by effectively tackling the blames directed at them. Instead of convincing the people of the truth, the UDF government was engaging in pointless arguments targeting their opponents and questioning their intentions. The CM and his Ministers expresses unusual political expertise in this case which was seen when both the Ministers were accused of their involvement in the scam. But the judiciary reined in the government both the times. The UDF government that assured transparency and vigilance when it came to power in the state has been plagued by corruption since the beginning of its tenure. It receives frequent set backs from the courts as well, for its political games, lacking morality. Those in power are sure to fall headlong in the looming elections if this final warning too is ignored.