Vigilance too hot for Chandy

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The two-decade old palm oil case almost claimed an unwitting party to the deal; the Chief Minister Mr Oommen Chandy, the then finance minister.

Mr Chandy wanted to quit as soon as the verdict was out, but coalition leaders prevailed on him.

Instead, Mr Chandy may give up the vigilance portfolio as it would be embarrassing to preside over the agency that probes him.

The CM, who had told the Congress high command that he would quit in the event of an adverse judicial reference, was inclined to uphold it. But the Defence Minister, Mr A K Antony, smelt the danger.

Despite his busy schedule in Parliament, Mr Antony authorised a Congress MP to ask Mr Chandy not to act on sentiment but look at the larger UDF canvas and let the probe conclude.

The message was that but for him, the ruling UDF faced imminent collapse.

The advocate-general, Mr K.P. Dhandapani, rushed from Kochi to advise the Law Minister, Mr K.M. Mani.

The argument in favour of Mr Chandy still retains the high moral ground because none of the previous Left Ministries could find a shred of evidence to proceed against him.

The former Vigilance director, Mr K.J. Joseph, had probed Mr Chandy during the Nayanar Government and given a given a clean chit.

However, towards the fag end of the Achuthanandan Government, following the death of the first accused, Mr K. Karunakaran, there was a flurry of petitions seeking discharge from the case. But the judge thought otherwise.

The case now continues to hound Mr Chandy, whose only indiscretion was to sign on a file presented to him by the then Food Minister, Mr T.H. Musthafa, minutes before a Cabinet meeting.

Haunting Congress for 19 years

Jan 24, 1992: Palmolein imported at the rate of $405 per MT from Malaysia.

Feb 2, 1994: Enhanced price causes a loss of Rs.2.32 crore, CAG report says.

May 20, 1996: FIR registered against the then CM Karunakaran and six others.

March 14, 2011: Vigilance Court grants permission to conduct further probe in palm oil deal.

May 14, 2011: Vigilance files report in the court without making any reference to Oommen Chandy. Vigilance says no need for further probe.

August 8, 2011: Vigilance Court rejects the probe report. Directs to probe the role of Chandy.

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