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Whitewashing a scam

Whitewashing a scam

Publication: The Pioneer
Date: May 7, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/174467/Whitewashing-a-scam.html

CPM engineers exoneration of Pinarayi Vijayan

The decision of the LDF Government in Kerala not to allow the CBI to prosecute CPI(M) secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, who is one of the accused in the Rs 374.5-crore SNC Lavalin scandal, does not come as a surprise. Of course, the Governor can ignore the Cabinet's advice and ask the CBI to go ahead, but it is unlikely that he will break both tradition and convention. This is all the more so because the Congress, after lampooning the Left and lashing out at the CPI(M) during the peak of the election campaign is now seeking to make amends in the hope that the Communists will once again offer to prop up a UPA regime. In a sense, the CPI(M) would have, in all probability, timed the Cabinet decision to disallow the prosecution of Mr Vijayan in a manner that it comes barely 10 days before the results are declared. The move is both daring and cunning; the Congress in Kerala can take to the streets, as it has threatened to do, but the Congress 'high command', faced with an uncertain future after the election, is loath to rile the Marxists at this stage. In any event, having brazenly exonerated Ottavio Quattrocchi in the Bofors bribery scandal, the Congress 'high command' cannot be seen to be preaching probity to others, leave alone pushing for the prosecution of a CPI(M) Polit Bureau member who enjoys the full backing of party general secretary Prakash Karat. So, neither the CPI(M) nor the LDF it leads is particularly perturbed about the Congress-led UDF's call for a bandh on Thursday. Whatever the Opposition says or does in Thiruvananthapuram, in the absence of matching action by the Congress's central leadership in New Delhi, is really meaningless. But unlike the Congress, which has displayed amazing disregard for public opinion and contempt for the law of the land while exonerating Quattrocchi, a wanted fugitive, the CPI(M) has taken care to couch the decision to protect Mr Pinarayi in a manner so as not to be seen as singling him out for such favour. For, along with its decision not to permit the prosecution of Mr Pinarayi, the Kerala Government has also decided that there is no need to prosecute former Power Department principal secretary K Mohanachandran and former joint secretary A Francis, both accused in the same case.

If there is any embarrassment for the CPI(M), it is restricted to its faithful, especially those in the party hierarchy and organisation who are of the view that a far more honourable course would have been to let the law take its own course: Instead of shielding Mr Vijayan, he should have been asked to face trial and secure a favourable judgement in order to end the controversy once and for all. Wednesday's Cabinet decision can only fuel speculation and serve to strengthen doubts about Mr Vijayan's innocence - both within the party as well as among the people. More importantly, the decision embarrasses Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan who, at the fag end of his political career unmarked by controversy and untainted by scandal, has been forced to toe the party line despite his instinctive reaction which was to let Mr Vijayan face trial. The CPI(M) may have succeeded in stifling protest within the ranks and at fairly high levels of the party leadership by manipulating the clean chit for Mr Vijayan and getting the LDF to endorse it through its Wednesday's Cabinet decision, but this is not necessarily the last we have heard about the SNC Lavalin scandal.

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