In the 1970s, a bunch of young Congressmen came out with a blueprint on probity in political life. Among the architects of the manuscript were A K Antony, Vayalar Ravi and Oommen Chandy. A major impetus for Antony to become the youngest chief minister at 37 was his ability to stand by it. While he may be no St Antony, Chandy, who became a minister before Antony did, at the age of 33, puts an equal premium on his image, way over positions of power. This has been visible through his 10 consecutive terms in the assembly that has lasted 43 years.
Having taken the moral high ground all along his political career, it has come as a surprise to many that Chandy, for the first time, is taking a contrary stand while facing allegations that his office is involved in the escalating solar scam — where a young couple used their contacts with high officials to dupe many individuals and institutions of crores of rupees — that continues to rock the 26-month-old UDF government. Ultimately, the simmering factional feud within the state Congress could well seal his fate as a rejuvenated Opposition has raised the pitch on his ouster call, unless Chandy pulls off something spectacular by way of a great escape act.
Ironically, it was only hours after Chandy received the UN award in Manama on behalf of the chief minister’s office for his “mass contact programme” under “preventing and combating corruption in public service” that his aide was arrested back home for involvement in the solar scam. Chandy’s obsession with transparency that led to web cameras being put to work 24x7 in his office has not delivered the desired results. Short cuts have a habit of backfiring. Solar panels can at best address peripheral and not mainline requirements in a state that has fought shy of generating power for over three decades. Clearly, gimmicks are no replacement for the real goods and the idealists from the 1970s have no business to lower their standards in public life, willfully or otherwise.