'How did CM's assistant speak with cheat so many times?'

Thiruvananthapuram, June 13 (IANS) Allegations against a member of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's staff rocked the Kerala assembly for the second day Thursday.

The Left opposition questioned how a woman, Saritha S. Nair, in police custody for involvement in several cases of cheating, had such easy access to Chandy's personal assistant Teny Jopan.

Seeking leave for an adjournment motion to discuss the issue, CPI-M legislator Raju Abraham told the house that the mobile phone that belonged to Jopan was used to contact Nair at least 70 times over a period of one month preceding the woman's arrest June 3.

"Even though the phone belongs to Chandy's assistant, Chandy himself also uses it. So we wish to know who was the person from the chief minister's office who had maintained close contact with an accused, who even served a jail term of six months in 2009 in a cheating case," Abraham said.

Nair, since 2000, is alleged to have been involved in more than 13 cases of cheating. Her latest escapade was conducted under the name of Team Solar, a company believed to have cheated numerous people of crores of rupees on promise of supplying solar panels and putting up windmill farms.

Chandy told the house that a special team would probe all 13 cases of cheating in which Nair was allegedly involved.

He said strict action would be taken against those found guilty of wrongdoing and urged the opposition to wait at least until an interim report of the probe was received.

"Since I don't have a mobile phone, I use the mobiles of my staff. I assure the house that nothing will be kept under wraps, and once the interim report is ready, all those who are found to have done wrong will be proceeded against," Chandy said.

Former state home minister and CPI-M politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said that it was rather strange that the office of the chief minister was dealing with a known cheat.

"We expected the chief minister to announce that he had suspended his personal assistant. He always speaks of transparent governance, is this the way to go about it? Which police official would do a fair probe when he has to probe the very office of the chief minister? The need of the hour is a judicial probe into these shady dealings," Balakrishnan said.

Unhappy over being told to wait until an interim report is ready, Balakrishnan led the entire opposition out of the house.

The issue surfaced on Tuesday when the CPI-M-backed Kairali TV channel came out with an expose on mobile call details of Nair and Jopan.

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