If there is anything that could provoke Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan more than the sight of black flags, it would be Congress’s Muvattupuzha MLA Mathew Kuzhalnadan.
In fact, on Tuesday, Kuzhalnadan was at his provocative best. He moved an adjournment motion on the Wadakkanchery Life Mission issue and dragged the Chief Minister right to the middle of the bribe scandal.
Not only did he place Pinarayi at the centre of the scandal but also kept hurling direct questions at him. His posers were derived from the remand report of the Enforcement Directorate, which had reproduced certain WhatsApp chats the Chief Minister’s former principal secretary M Sivasankar had with some of the principal actors involved in the scandal.
One, Kuzhalnadan wanted to know whether the Chief Minister had endorsed a letter that appointed Unitac as the contractor of the Wadakkanchery Life Mission project.
Two, he wanted to know whether the Chief Minister, along with Sivasankar, had met with the UAE Consul General, and his then secretary Swapna Suresh. “Do you have the courage to deny this,” Kuzhalnadan dared Pinarayi.
The Chief Minister was quick to react, and in quite a provoked fashion. “This is an absolute lie. There was no such meeting,” the Chief Minister said in rage.
Kuzhalnadan responded with another dare, couched in the sly language of concern. “If this is the case, then you should approach the court. How can an agency (ED) be allowed to spread falsehoods against the Chief Minister. The UDF will be with you,” Kuzhalnadan said.
This provoked the Chief Minister more. “I don’t need your advice for what I should do,” Pinarayi said.
Stepping up the provocation, Kuzhalnadan said the Chief Minister now would have to deny more things. He flung his third poser, quoting from Sivasankar’s WhatsApp chat with Swapna Suresh. “Did you ask Sivasankar to get Swapna a plum posting in Space Park (under the IT Department)?”
By then, the ruling members were on their feet, shouting curses. Seething with anger, the Chief Minister said: “I have made this clear even before. The government has no idea about such an appointment.”
At this point, minister for law P Rajeeve intervened to ask whether Kuzhalnadan was willing to table the WhatsApp evidence of chats before the House. Kuzhalnadan was more than willing. “I am all for it. I will gladly table the ED remand report before the House,” he said.
But Rajeeve said that he was asking about the WhatsApp chats and not the remand report. Kuzhalnadan replied that he read out the WhatsApp chats from the remand report.
Now, Rajeeve argued that a document that was under the consideration of courts could not be mentioned in the House. He cited rule 52(7) of the Assembly Rules of Procedure to back his claim.
By now, the ruling party members massed themselves right at the edge of the well of the House and shouted down Kuzhalnadan.
At this point, when the chaos escalated, Speaker A N walked out leaving the House in animated suspension. This temporary holding up of Assembly proceedings was happening for the second consecutive day; last day it was over police highhandedness.
In 15 minutes the Speaker returned and immediately ruled that Kuzhalnadan could not cite the ED remand report in House as the case was sub judice.
The Speaker asked Kuzhalnadan to wind up his speech. The Congress MLA kept on with his provocative ways, causing fiery one-line exchanges between him and the Chief Minister.
Kuzhalnadan’s speech was largely drowned in angry ruling front shouts. However, Opposition Leader V D Satheesan later hurled the same charges with as much vigour and sharpness but the ruling benches, including the Chief Minister, remained largely silent.
First of all he said minister P Rajeeve’s argument that the remand report could not be cited in the House was misleading. “It cannot be quoted only during the adjudication process,” Satheesan said. “This process begins only with the filing of the chargesheet. In this Life Mission case, a chargesheet is yet to be filed,” he said. The Opposition Leader was not contradicted.
Perhaps to keep the ruling bench sedate, the Opposition Leader targeted not the Chief Minister but his office. “The Chief Minister’s Office is indisputably involved,” Satheesan said. There was pin drop silence.
He explained how the CMO came into the picture. “This happened when money from Santhosh Eapen’s Axis Bank account was found in the bank account held jointly by Swapna and Sivasankar’s chartered accountant. What has the Chief Minister’s principal secretary got to do with a joint account connected to Swapna? He is in jail for what he had done as your principal secretary. The involvement of your office was thus established without doubt,” Satheesan said.
He, too, had some posers for the Chief Minister. One, why was Unitac handed over government land without an agreement? Two, why did the Vigilance seize crucial Life Mission files on the day before the CBI was about to begin it’s investigation? Three, why has the government gone to the Supreme Court, along with Santhosh Eapen who had admitted that he had paid bribes, to get the CBI probe withdrawn?
No answers were provided.