Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had posted on Facebook on November 9, 2015 while he was in the Opposition, condemning Finance Minister K M Mani in the background of the High Court criticizing the latter in the Bar Bribery case.
‘When the details of the Bar Bribery scam were revealed, we had already said that K M Mani had to resign or would have to step down facing humiliation. All the attempts to protect corruption and wipe out the case by clinging on to power have failed. It is Oommen Chandy who led to this situation of Mani’s resignation. K M Mani who misused the investigative machinery and the officials and made efforts to save his face but was subjected to sharp criticisms by the High Court, is the symbol of a government led by Oommen Chandy’. These were the lines posted by the CM on Facebook. In the wake of resignation of the disgraced Transport Minister Thomas Chandy, Pinarayi Vijayan’s Facebook post is currently becoming viral on the social media with the name K M Mani replaced by that of Thomas Chandy and Oommen Chandy by Pinarayi Vijayan. The trolls are a notable mockery against the Chief Minister’s stance in the issue related to Thomas Chandy. It is rather the approach of the government on the issue than the land encroachment by Chandy that made matters worse. This has greatly tarnished the reputation of the Pinarayi Vijayan government. Thomas Chandy has been under investigation for alleged violation of land-related laws and encroachment of backwaters for his resort in Alappuzha. Controversies, allegations and counter allegations related to these charges continued for a long time. Then came the report of Alappuzha District Collector confirming that the land has been encroached upon. That was the moment the Minister should have stepped down from his post if he had some degree of political propriety. Or the Chief Minister should have compelled him to resign. Things had been turning worse as the resignation got delayed. Finally, it was when Thomas Chandy himself approached the High Court seeking to quash the Collector’s report that the matter went out of control.
Chandy’s petition was against the functionaries of his own government, namely Chief Secretary, Revenue Department and Alappuzha District Collector; a strange spectacle of a Minister who is part of the state government approaching the court against the same government machinery. The High Court rapped him for this approach. The court remarked that Thomas Chandy violated the collective responsibility of the cabinet. This intervention of the High Court came on Tuesday with the term ‘step down’ used four times during the proceedings. Thomas Chandy should have resigned that very moment had he had some degree of political decency and morality. But that did not happen either. He held that he would decide after consulting the NCP national leadership. The Minister also attended the cabinet meeting on Wednesday. With the CPI Ministers boycotting that meeting to protest the presence of Thomas Chandy, the incident became a rare one in the history of the state. It created an impression of the cabinet losing its collective responsibility and unity completely. Thomas Chandy was eventually forced to give his resignation succumbing to the pressures of the visual and social media as well as the CPI of the ruling front. If NCP and Thomas Chandy lost a post, all these incidents brought an inerasable blemish on the reputation of the LDF government and Pinarayi Vijayan.
Thomas Chandy, more than being a politician, is a business tycoon. And the allegations of encroachments levelled against him are quite common for most entrepreneurs running businesses like resorts. Nor were the encroachments charged against him made during his tenure as Minister. But what led to his eventual resignation was the lack of due cognizance of the fact that a person occupying such a high statutory position should not commit even a minor violation of law. Viewed in that angle, the episode augurs well for our political culture. Somehow or the other, even the Opposition seems to have taken a soft stand on the issue of Thomas Chandy, perhaps a clue that they also did not want to prick such a big tycoon. Chandy himself did enjoy unstinted support of the Chief Minister. Despite all this, he had to step down proving that he could not survive the social pressures around. This too bodes well for our system. For, the fact that such a popular pressure still exists in politics as can throw away someone trying to cling to power, should delight the votaries of democracy. The chief minister also would do well to take a message from all this about the need for a rethinking of his style of functioning.