The Kerala government has finally said it will convene a special one-day session of the state assembly to table the judicial commission report on the "solar scam". Until days ago, the government had impudently refused to let anyone see the contents of the report. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan deadpanned, saying a copy of the report would not be given to the Opposition. The law minister said there was no way anyone was going to get the report, after more than a dozen RTI queries were lined up.
This was after the CPI-M led government announced criminal and vigilance investigation into the former chief minister Oommen Chandy, a couple of former ministers, some serving MPs and other top leaders of the Congress party and its political allies. Pinarayi Vijayan called a press conference last week to make the sensational announcement that the former chief minister and other leaders will be prosecuted for sexual assault. This was over and beyond the vigilance cases that would be slapped against them. Imminent arrest loomed over the septuagenarian former chief minister and a dozen top leaders.
It was Pinarayi Vijayan's spectacular carpet-bombing of the Congress in Kerala. It was momentous. The visuals of the chief minister announcing a sex assault investigation against his predecessor in his chilling monotones were surreal. In one fell swoop he exterminated the top half of the Congress leadership in the state. Or that was the perception created by the boisterous live TV reporting.
What followed was ridiculous. The former chief minister and the Congress leadership asked for a copy of the Justice Shivarajan Commission's full report. Pinarayi and his apparatchiks flatly refused. Here you are slapping non-bailable sex assault charges on someone — based only on the contents of a judicial commission report — and then refusing to divulge the contents of the document.
The Opposition accused the government of using the contents of the report selectively to frame politically motivated charges against the leaders. They said the chief minister built the case against Congress stalwarts based on the Advocate General's legal opinion over the Commission report. They added that the Commission had gone beyond the terms of reference of the enquiry. Why wouldn't the government release the report even as it went ahead with the formation of senior-level police teams that would probe and arrest Chandy and others?
There was a denial of natural justice, Oommen Chandy said. His government had appointed the judicial Commission to look into the allegations that a fraudulent solar power company had duped investors using its purported connections with the chief minister's office and proximity to a handful of ministers.
It's a different matter altogether that the case had actually become a long-running sleazy sex saga involving one of the promoters of the fake solar power company. The woman in question, by her own admission, slept with anyone she deemed would help her connect with others and thus further her fly-by-night business plan.
The government of Oommen Chandy arrested the multiple-fraud-accused and put her in jail. That's when she wrote an allegedly 25-page bombshell of a letter that accused a whole clan of political leaders and police officers of serial, repeated sexual abuse. She herself changed her account many a time, picking and choosing her victims as per her own immediate legal exigencies. And there were multiple sub-lists of her harassers. Some were her real lovers, she claimed later on. To some she could give clemency on various grounds, and some were downright molesters. She had shot on camera her sexual escapades with the state's crème-de-la-crème, but there was no footage that she could produce anywhere.
Surely wasn't money and sex involved in the solar scam? Yes indeed. Surely wasn't influence peddling at high places involved? Yes indeed. Surely hadn't her missives sent "tainted" men scurrying for cover? Yes indeed. The previous government had sacked staff at the CM's office and arrested them after it was revealed that they had helped the woman get access to the chief minister and other ministers. An MLA was trampled on the floor by CPI-M workers after he was implicated in the sex assault case.
The solar scam soon became a saucy, frothy sex scandal — the political class vertically split into those who made it to the gravy train and those who didn't, as if it were. Live TV reporting celebrated the new bimbo in town, slavishly drooling for bites and chasing around the prima donna of the sickening, smutty drama to tell the people how fabulous she looked during her court outings from the prison.
Protests raged, the Inquiry Commission was appointed, elections were fought, elections were lost and won. The lady changed her statements umpteen times, sending the judge into a tizzy. The most notorious episode was the fully-televised and state-funded day-and-night-long inter-state drive by a police party to find a sleaze video involving the chief minister — which they never found. And there was another twist too. Split screens on live TV showed visuals from the police hunt and the lady denying there was any footage! And that the chief minister was a father-figure for her!
Finally, four years later, the Commission report was submitted to the chief minister on September 26, 2017. Curiously it was gift-wrapped! As much as Rs 6 crore was spent on its making. The Opposition says the entire amount involved in the scam was around half that — and not a single rupee from the exchequer was lost in the scam.
The chief minister acted, and in haste indeed. He steamrollered an Action Taken Report in his cabinet and quickly announced a police investigation into those mentioned in the report. Legal experts said a backlash was waiting in the wings. Although the Communist Marxist party and the government functionaries defended the move, with each passing day the resoluteness waned. Let alone arresting the leaders, the government could not even release the official order on the formation of the police teams. As it sought more legal backing, graver warnings emerged.
Reports said the Law Secretary realised that the AG's war cry would not hold water. The AG apparently put a spin on the Commission findings to say sexual favours amounted to graft. But there was no action against the bribe giver.
In another contradiction, the same sexual acts were treated as assault and bribe at the same time. The Chief Secretary delayed the rollout of the official orders. Meanwhile, public opinion started swinging as well, driven by a social media inquisition of the "lead actress."
On Thursday, October 19, the government said it would convene a special Assembly session to table the report. It also said it would seek legal advice from former Supreme Court Judge Justice Arijit Pasayat. Some advice yet again!
And that's just typical of the way Pinarayi is handling his office. There is a multitude of high-profile advisers in his office but almost every single major issue his office handled had brought him disrepute.
There was a tearing urgency in the CM's move when he got hold of the Solar report -- something that displayed the traits of a ruthless and unforgiving war machine that cannot complement the personality of anyone other than Pinarayi Vijayan. He would be lucky if it doesn't backfire on him completely. He should definitely get hold of more seasoned, level headed advisers than the fiery party fidayeens controlling his office.
Probably he and his team were in a hurry to dig a hole and bury the Congress in the state solemnly. That's a political exigency in the current scenario. Liquidating the Congress and enlisting its support base is the laziest way to stem the growth of the BJP in the state and protect the last remaining Marxist rampart in the country. Pinarayi's solar move came days after BJP national president Amit Shah led a party rally in the Marxist heartland where there's a de facto ban on any other political party.
The move also reflects the CPI-M's indecision on how to oppose BJP on a national level. Last week, the party Politburo and the Central Committee were sharply divided on the question of including Congress in pan-Indian alliance of the secular parties. The party leaders from Kerala scooped up a narrow win in this tussle, helping establish a party line that sees the Congress as the bigger political enemy than the BJP.
And that's exactly what the BJP wants. A Congress liquidation and the splintering of its vote base will help both the BJP and the CPI-M. Is BJP then worried about the Left becoming a little stronger in the bargain? Of course not, why should it?
For the BJP, the Left is not in the picture, with not even vestigial representation in some 25 states.