No cheers for Achuthanandan from party on Bar bribe row

Wednesday, Nov 5, 2014,19:14 IST By metrovaartha A A A

Thiruvananthapuram | In a rebuff to party stalwart V S Achuthanandan, the CPI(M) state leadership today demanded an inquiry by a special team of Kerala Police under judicial supervision into the graft allegation levelled by bar owners against Finance Minister K M Mani.
In what is seen as another instance of growing disconnect between the veteran leader and party leadership, CPI-M state secretariat, which met here, rejected outright Achuthanandan’s persistent call for a CBI probe into the allegation.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy also cold-shouldered Achuthanandan’s stand saying, the Vigilance probe was actually done on the basis of a letter from the latter. Briefing reporters, CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan demanded that the government constitute a special team of competent and top-ranking officers to probe the allegation that Mani had received Rs one crore from bar owners and asked for more for favourable decision.
We want neither a Vigilance investigation nor a CBI probe. We want a special team of top-ranking and competitive police officers to be formed and the inquiry conducted under judicial supervision, Vijayan said.
The party also rejected Achuthanandan’s call for bringing back the RSP and Socialist Janata Democratic to the LDF fold on the ground that they had been part of the coalition for long but forced to go out under compulsions. Without waiting for party’s official take on the issue, Achuthanandan had consistently pressed for a CBI probe in the ‘bar bribe’ controversy arguing that an inquiry by a state agency would end up as a farce in a case in which the needle of suspicion was on a senior minister.
Justifying his stand, Achuthanandan had issued repeated statements despite Vijayan making it clear that CBI probe was not preferable to the party questioning the credibility of the agency in dealing with politically sensitive cases. With the allegation casting a shadow over the Congress-led UDF Government, the Government had ordered a probe by Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau, which already formed a special team for the task.
In what is seen a spillover of the Chandy ministry’s move to take the state to total prohibition in 10 years, Kerala Bar Hotels Association working president Biju Ramesh had alleged that Mani demanded a hefty sum as bribe from bar owners for helping them to open 418 bars shut down earlier this year for want of required facilities.
The Government later tightened its liquor policy by ordering closure of all bars except those attached to five star hotels.  Challenging the decision, the bar owners had moved the court and a division bench of Kerala High Court had stayed it for a month.