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25 Jun 2022, Edition - 2538, Saturday

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Congress scorched under solar heat in Kerala



The image can be more real than reality. The photograph of Sarita Nair, the woman who shook the citadels of power in Kerala and nudged the Congress party into the gorge of near oblivion, whispering into the ears of Oommen Chandy when he was the Chief Minister, shows how close she was to the powers that be.

But Chandy’s refrain that he never knew Sarita, an announcement he made in the Assembly after a long meeting with her at the Ernakulam guest house, was difficult for anyone to believe. That he went back on this later and now says the commission report is ‘Sarita’s report’ also appears hard to digest.

On Thursday when the report of the Justice Sivarajan Commission that probed the solar scam was tabled in Kerala Assembly convened for just this, it was a moment when history was created. Not a glorious one because the report contained tales of corruption and sleazy ones of intimate relationships with many Congress leaders.

While the Congress and the United Democratic Front that leads it may find it difficult to come out of this crisis and may find fault with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan convening a press conference earlier to reveal parts of the report, it has left a scar on Kerala’s political spectrum. Chandy today claims the commission went beyond the terms of reference, though he had when it was constituted said that everything under the sun would be looked into by the commission which was selected by his own government.

Pinarayi has scored with the issue of solar, eclipsing temporarily the controversy of his cabinet colleague Thomas Chandy who, as the majority believe, has to be shown the door for land-grabbing.

The solar case brings to public mind how the late Congress leader Chief Minister K Karunakaran was hounded out through a non-existent ISRO spy case where a section in the Congress worked against him. But this time the party needs to stand together because it is a host of their leaders, including promising young front runners, whose political career is at stake.

When Sarita asserted on Thursday that she was firm on what she had said about being abused and having to bribe leaders and had more proof, it rang echoes of another inquiry more than a century ago.

In 1905, a Namboodiri woman Kuriyedath Savitri (shortened to Tatri) was tried for prostitution. When she reeled out the names of her clients and when the then ruler of Cochin asked her to stop after the 64th, Kerala society was petrified, just as it is today.

Sarita’s revelation of leaders seeking sexual satisfaction for gratification comes under the purview of the Prevention of Corruption Act. It was to take forward her company Team Solar’s projects, unlike Tatri who must have, as believed now, done it for pleasure.

Like Tatri, Sarita has not pleaded not guilty and she said on Thursday that she makes no claims that she did no wrong. She only pointed her fingers at those who used her and the money she collected from her company clients.

If Tatri’s inquiry saw artistes and scholars banished from the erstwhile Cochin State, Sarita has jeopardised the future of a long array of leaders who have blurred Kerala’s social and political image.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own.

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