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'Solar scam' turns heat on Oommen Chandy govt in 2013

Solar scam turns heat on Oommen Chandy govt in 2013

Thiruvananthapuram: For Kerala, 2013 was a year of intense political heat with the solar scam haunting the government led by Oommen Chandy, who also had to deal with factionalism in the state Congress unit. A bountiful monsoon, however, brought cheer among the people as it filled the state's reservoirs and improved the power scenario after a rain-deficient year.

After being assertive for two years despite the slender margin he enjoys, Chandy found himself under attack over the solar scam since July from the CPI(M)-led Opposition.

Over the months, it snowballed into a full-blown scam with the arrest of the main accused duo of Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan, who financially cheated several persons by offering them solar energy solutions, and also a personal aide of Chandy for allegedly helping them. The Opposition LDF launched a prolonged agitation, which often turned violent, demanding Chandy's resignation despite the government ordering a judicial probe.

The chief minister also faced internal threats with the faction in the Congress broadly identified with KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala hitting at him overtly and covertly. Earlier, the ministry's image took a beating with the then forest minister K B Ganesh Kumar of Kerala Congress (B) forced to resign at the height of domestic disputes.

A shrewd politician and mass leader, Chandy, however, steered clear of much of the crises and went ahead with his Mass Contact Programme (MCP) of directly engaging with people in all the districts. The 2012 edition of MCP won Chandy the coveted UN award for public service as a unique programme that saw the head of an administration engaging directly with masses to hear their complaints and find speedy solutions.

The LDF, however, dubbed it as a "mere political gimmick" which only made a mockery of the grassroot level administration and civic bodies. As a state where over a million families depend on remittances sent by expatriates from the Gulf, Saudi Arabia's 'nitaquat' policy of reserving a good portion of jobs to native people created anxieties in Kerala.

However, the inflow of returnees was not as large as feared initially as many of the Keralites in the Gulf country legalised their work permits utilising the amnesty offered by the Saudi administration.

Steady fall in rubber prices also caused anxieties in the state, especially in districts like Kottayam and Pathanamthitta, where a large number of medium and small growers felt the impact of the price crash. Kerala has been pressing the Centre to hike import duty on rubber so that the industry would refrain from sourcing the raw material from rubber producing countries abroad.

After nearly two decades, the Suryanelli sex scam was back in focus with the Supreme Court ordering retrial in the case reversing the Kerala High Court order that acquitted most of the accused who allegedly gangraped a minor girl by taking her to various places.

The long-drawn factionalism in Kerala CPI(M) subsided after state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, at loggerheads with his senior colleague V S Achuthanandan, emerging as the undisputed leader in the state following his acquittal in the SNC Lavalin case.

The Centre's move to implement the Kasturirangan Committee report on Western Ghats conservation sparked a long protest by people settled on slopes of the mountain range fearing they might be displaced if the recommendations to protect the sensitive areas of the biological hotspot were enforced. Apart from political parties, the Catholic church also came in forefront of the agitation and pastoral letters were read out in churches in upland areas like Idukki and Wayanad condemning the move.

The plans to develop a greenfield airport by a private consortium in heritage village Aranumula in Pathanamthitta district also met with stiff resistance from green activists, despite the Union Forest and Environment Ministry giving nod for it. Malayalam cinema lost a great actor in the death of Sukumari, who had in a career spanning over five decades essayed many a memorable role.

The death of two veteran music composers- V Dakshinamurthy and K Raghavan- was also deeply mourned. Both the music directors had helped Malayalam film music through their original scores since the late 1950s, ending the practice of imitating the Hindi and Tamil tracks. On the crime front, Bitti Mohanty, who jumped parole and eluded police for long after being convicted in a rape case in Rajasthan, was arrested in Kannur in Kerala. He had been impersonating as one Raghav Rajan and managed to secure a job in a public sector bank.

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