VS graft fusillade at rival hits politburo

Thiruvananthapuram, Jan. 31: Kerala CPM veteran V.S. Achuthanandan yesterday hit out at the central leadership saying he was removed from the politburo for "backing the truth" in a corruption case against rival and state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan.

The comments on the SNC Lavalin case of the 1990s, which come after he had apologised for such attacks earlier, follow alleged attempts by the Vijayan-led state unit to corner him by expelling three members of VS's personal staff on charges of leaking sensitive party documents.

"When the Lavalin issue came up and I gave a different opinion, I was told that I could not continue in the politburo as my view was not in tune with the decision taken by the PB (politburo). I accepted it. I will only stand by the truth," the 89-year-old Achuthanandan, known as VS, told a Malayalam channel.

"Since then, I'm continuing as central committee member... I believed in my views in the case (the deal) which was found by the CAG as deceptive. My party colleague E. Balanandan, who studied the project in detail, too had expressed the view that it (the deal) was wrong and should be dropped," the former chief minister added.

The allusion was to a report and a letter of the late Balanandan, a former Citu national president and politburo member, to general secretary Prakash Karat opposing the deal between the Kerala State Electricity Board and Canadian firm SNC Lavalin for renovation of three hydel projects in the state.

Vijayan was then power minister in the Left government led by E.K. Nayanar. The deal, allegedly cleared in return for kickbacks, had led to loss of over Rs 300 crore to the exchequer. Its critics claimed other firms had offered rates lower than Lavalin's.

Kerala High Court had ordered a CBI inquiry into the alleged scam but the probe agency said Vijayan had not made any personal gain.

VS, however, said yesterday that the conclusion was based on the statement of a lone witness. Pressed further, he qualified his statement. "Why was he (Vijayan) not removed from the list of accused (if he was innocent)? As a whole, he is still an accused."

Vijayan refused comment but other party leaders voiced disapproval. Former power minister A.K. Balan said no one should think he was above the party, while former finance minister T.M. Thomas Issac termed it unfortunate.

The VS-Pinarayi spat isn't new but many agree it had never before touched such a raw nerve. The octogenarian had protested the state unit's move to expel his three aides when he attended the CPM's central committee meeting in Calcutta earlier this month. Departing from the practice of ratifying the state unit's moves, the central committee postponed a decision indefinitely.

VS also conveyed strong disapproval of the findings of a panel, headed by a CPM Lok Sabha MP, apparently indicting him for "conspiring" against Vijayan in the case.

VS ' according to report the existence of which has not been acknowledged or confirmed by the CPM leadership ' met various authorities, including then Chief Justice of Kerala High Court to build the case against Vijayan.


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