THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Two months after Transport Minister Thomas Chandy was forced to step down over land grab charges, the NCP is all set to regain its Cabinet berth. With a court acquitting A K Saseendran in a honey trap case, the Elathur MLA is likely to be back as a minister soon. With the Assembly in session, there’s unlikely to be any delay.There’s already an understanding within the ruling LDF about the vacant Cabinet berth. In fact, when the P S Antony Commission gave a clean chit to Saseendran, the LDF had thought about reinstating him. However, it was decided that the move should happen only after the court case is over. Now, with the court giving him a clean chit, there’s no need for further delay, said a senior LDF leader.
According to LDF convener Vaikom Viswan, it’s for the NCP to take a call on its ministership.“The party has got a Cabinet berth. Once they communicate the decision, the LDF will decide. The LDF will meet if needed,” he said.Sources said that the NCP leadership contacted Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan after the court verdict. With the CPM and CPI district conferences currently on and the state conferences of both parties scheduled towards the end of February and beginning of March, the NCP expects the swearing in without much delay. Having a full-time transport minister back would be a major relief for the CM, who has been burdened with many portfolios.
Once the national leadership gives its nod, the NCP will communicate the same to the LDF and the CM, said NCP state president T P Peethambaran. “Meeting with party national leadership is scheduled on January 29. Once they issue a clearance, the decision will be communicated to the LDF. There won’t be any delay from our side,” he said.
“A final decision will be taken at the meeting in Delhi to be attended by NCP chief Sharad Pawar. The state leadership will communicate the decision to the LDF,” he added.The CPI has welcomed the verdict and made it clear that it has no objection to Saseendran’s return. CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran said the LDF will take a call. “It’s NCP’s Cabinet berth and hence it’s for the party to take a call. His resignation was morally right. Now, the LDF will take a call on the follow-up action,” he said.
CASE DOWN THE LANE
The case dates back to March 26, 2017, when newly-launched news channel Mangalam TV aired a phone conversation, purportedly made by Saseendran, in which he was heard indulging in lewd talk with a woman.
The incident forced Saseendran to step down as Transport Minister on the same day. However, it soon came to light that it was a case of honey trapping in which the channel hatched a conspiracy to trap him for airing an ‘exclusive’ news report. Following that, the woman journalist filed a complaint in the court in April.
Channel CEO Ajith Kumar came on air admitting that the channel had done a ‘sting operation’ on the minister. Following that, the police registered an FIR against Ajith and eight other employees of the channel.
The controversy also led to the LDF Government appointing the PS Antony Commission to probe the case. In November, A K Saseendran got a clean chit from the commission. Later, the woman complainant turned hostile and deposed in the court in favour of Saseendran.
A dramatic turn of events in the honey trap case against Saseendran
T’Puram: Meanwhile, the court witnessed a dramatic turn of events earlier in the day when a public interest litigation was filed, urging the court not to permit Saseendran and the complainant to settle the case. The petition, filed by a woman named Mahalakshmi, a resident of Bappuji Nagar, Thycaud, alleged the complainant turned hostile due to fear of life and owing to pressure from certain quarters.
However, the court rejected the petition after finding the petitioner had no connection with the case. Besides, she had not enclosed any substantial evidence to prove her point. Two months ago, the P S Antony Judicial Commission, that probed the conspiracy behind the honey trap case, had also given a clean chit to Saseendran stating the private channel had trapped the minister ‘with commercial interests’ in mind.