Govt. seeks Governor’s nod to probe Chennithala

Bribery allegations made by hotelier Biju Ramesh

The State government has reportedly sought the permission of Governor Arif Muhammad Khan to conduct a prefatory anti-corruption inquiry against Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala.

The impending inquiry is centred on an allegation by hotelier Biju Ramesh that the Kerala Bar Hotel Association (KBHA) had paid ₹1 crore as bribe to the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) to salvage their business from a proposed crippling hike in bar licence fee during the previous Oommen Chandy government.

Mr. Ramesh had alleged that KBHA office-bearers had delivered the cash to the KPCC office at Indira Bhavan. Mr. Chennithala was the KPCC president at the time.

Mr. Ramesh had alleged that in a pre-budget meeting with hoteliers, the then Excise Minister K. Babu had informed them of a proposal to hike the bar permit fee steeply.

He said the KBHA had collected money from its members to bribe the administration from increasing the licence fee. He alleged that KBHA office-bearers had delivered ₹1 crore to the office of Mr. Babu in the Secretariat. Another KBHA emissary delivered ₹25 lakh at the house of V.S. Sivakumar, MLA. Both leaders have denied the allegation.

CPI(M) acting State secretary and LDF convener A. Vijayaraghavan had demanded an inquiry into the allegations raised by the hotelier.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala has welcomed the investigation. The Pinarayi Vijayan government had attempted in vain to breath new life into a dead and discredited controversy in a futile bid to turn public opinion against the United Democratic Front (UDF) ahead of the local body polls. Mr. Vijayan’s plot to draw public attention from his follies would prove hollow at the election hustings.

Mr. Chennithala said the Lok Ayukta had found no merit in the bribery case. Mr. Vijayan had attempted to resurrect the case to force his political opponents on the backfoot in the election year. Two back-to-back inquiries had established that the charges against UDF leaders were patently false.

Congress Working Committee member and former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and KPCC president termed the move a “political hit job”.

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