Chandy and Achuthanandan bat for UAE businessman Yusuf Ali

Thiruvananthapuram, May 27 (IANS) UAE-based Kerala businessman M.A. Yusuf Ali Monday got a huge boost as both Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan came out in his support in a land controversy that is threatening to swamp him.

Ali had earlier been attacked by the Ernakulam district CPI-M committee, which owes allegiance to CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, arch rival of Achuthanandan.

The district committee of the CPI-M had said that Ali, who recently opened the Rs.1,600-crore Lulu Shopping Mall here, was an "encroacher". He was also asked not to go ahead with the convention centre project on a 10.59-hectare plot in Kochi, which the Ernakulam unit of the CPI-M claimed had been bought on the sly from the Cochin Port Trust.

Ali, hurt by these remarks, had announced that he would withdraw from the convention centre project.

However, Chandy, addressing reporters here Monday, said the government would not allow Ali to withdraw from the project.

"The convention centre project land that he purchased was monitored by the centre and in between the high court also intervened and cleared it. The shopping mall also was a clean project. We will not allow him to withdraw from the project as it involves 4,000 new direct and 12,000 indirect jobs," Chandy said.

Achuthanandan, who was interacting with the media in the state capital, said he had clarified to cabinet colleagues Sunday that the deals were clean.

"Both these projects have been cleared as per the law and no violations have taken place. The convention centre is a project where 4,000 new jobs are going to materialise," Achuthanandan said.

Both the projects were cleared during Achuthanandan's tenure as chief minister during 2006-11.

Ali acquired the land from Cochin Port Trust in 2010 at a cost of Rs.72 crore for a 30-year lease period. In the wake of the controversy, he handed over a letter Monday to the Cochin Port Trust saying he was willing to return the land, provided the money he had paid was refunded.

The Port authorities are meeting later this month, and this matter is expected to be discussed then.

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