No question of change in Kerala leadership, says Antony

Kochi, July 14 (IANS) Defence Minister A.K. Antony, speaking to reporters here Sunday, ruled out a change in the leadership of the party or the government in Kerala in the wake of the recent solar scam.

"Let me make it very clear that there is not going to be any change in leadership here. It's quite natural that controversies break out in governance. The need of the hour is to learn from what has happened and be very vigilant," Antony said, adding that he was no judge, and would not issue a verdict on the conduct of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his government.

When reporters prodded him, Antony only said: "I am not a judge to hand out a verdict."

Chandy has been facing an onslaught from the Left opposition as well as from sections of the media, as print and TV channels have been relentlessly airing views and news on what has come to be termed the "solar scam".

"The CPI-M should be patient, as a probe is currently on. In all fairness, they should wait till it is over. What they are doing now is not correct," Antony told reporters.

The Kerala government has ordered a probe into the dealings of Saritha S. Nair and her live-in partner Biju Radhakrishnan, who are currently under arrest for having defrauded several investors on the promise of providing solar panels at subsidised rates. The telephone call records of Saritha Nair showed that she had been in regular and frequent touch with members of the chief minister's personal staff.

While one member of the chief minister's staff has been arrested in this connection, two others have been sacked. The opposition has held that Chandy and his family are involved in the scam.

Chandy faces flak not only from the opposition and the media, but also from detractors within his own party, some of whom have maintained a low profile, reluctant to come to the chief minister's defence.

"This is the time when the party should not only defend but also launch a counter attack. Sadly, though, neither is happening," said a top Congress leader.

The Left opposition has taken the fight against Chandy from inside the assembly to the streets, and called for a shutdown last Wednesday (July 10).

"It's strange that while the loss due to the fraud by the arrested couple is Rs.10 crore, the Left shutdown saw the state losing Rs.1,000 crore," Chandy said, citing estimates of the Kerala Chamber of Commerce.

Ever since the scam surfaced, Chandy has maintained that he has nothing to do with it. He has also repeatedly assured reporters and the opposition that none of the guilty will escape the law.

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