Even though Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has strongly defended Transport Minister Thomas Chandy in the allegations raised by the Opposition regarding the construction of road leading to the Lake Palace resort Chandy owns, the Congress party in Kerala is firm on its stand. The Congress leaders on Friday made it clear that they would strictly defend their stand demanding the resignation of Minister Thomas Chandy and immediate investigation into the issue.
The resort is situated near Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha. Pinarayi Vijayan, while responding to the adjournment motion held by Congress MLA V. T. Balram in the Assembly last day, had said that Chandy had already given an explanation and the Government did not find anything serious to be investigated in the matter. Balram while speaking to The Kochi Post said that his party would never allow a large-scale scandal to go unnoticed.
“We have made our stand clear on the issue. As long as Chandy continues to hold the Minister’s office, he will do whatever to cover up the issue. Incidents like intimidating public officials who look into the matter will continue. Files will continue go missing. If an influential figure like him continue to hold the Minister’s office, the evidence destruction process will be easier. That is why myself as well as the Opposition leader demanded his resignation,” Balram said.
The road construction issue got a new twist after several Malayalam news channels reported that Thomas Chandy and his people betrayed the public by constructing a road leading to the Lake Palace resort foreseeing the convenience of visitors who would land in Alappuzha for the Nehru Trophy boat race. Chandy maintained in the Assembly last day that he was well aware of the difficulties faced by the public living in that locality and their welfare was taken into consideration while constructing road using the money allowed by the Harbour Engineering Department. But it has been informed that the road construction did not benefit the natives as a portion of the road passing in front of several households still remains unfinished.
Balram also alleged that the Minister hid the real worth of his possessions and assets from the public. During election time he had said that the total assets would amount to Rs. 5 crore only. But last day in the Assembly, he said that he had invested about 150 crore in the resort. This has not been earlier pointed out by the Minister. There is a huge gap between what he had shown in the election and what he said yesterday. Besides, at least 13 buildings at the Lake Palace are registered in his name. This information has not been made public. So, day by day the issue is getting more and more serious. Pinarayi Vijayan cannot take an autocratic decision in this regard,” he said.
When asked about the issue, Public Works Department Minister G. Sudhakaran defended the Chief Minister’s stand.
“I don’t want to say anything further in this issue. The cabinet’s decision has been made public by the Chief Minister last day. The CM has added that if needed, a further inquiry into the issue would be made possible, no matter how influential is the person. The road does not fall under the Public Works Department. It is a municipal road, so I cannot comment on the issue in that sense,” Sudhakaran said.
When asked about the LDF Government’s involvement in the road construction, the Minister said that it was during the tenure of UDF Government the fund and the road were allotted.
Local leaders seemed to have reservations to comment on the issue. Thirumala ward councillor Jayaprasad said that he did not want to comment in the present situation. “I had earlier filed a complaint in this regard. In the wake of present controversies, I think I should not comment,” said Jayaprasad of the CPI (M). The resort is situated in his ward.
Kerala NCP leaders also restricted themselves from commenting on the issue. It was reported that Chandy was criticised by his own party men and the youth wing of NCP. When contacted, veteran NCP leader from State T P Peethambaran Master said that the party would discuss the matter within it.
(V T Balram’s photo has been taken from his Facebook profile)