Stages walkout demanding judicial probe into the incident

The phone call controversy took a new dimension on Friday with the Opposition boycotting the proceedings of the Assembly demanding that Chief Minister Oommen Chandy step down from his position to face a judicial inquiry into the reasons why his office had been in constant contact with a woman accused of financial deception in the name of a fraudulent solar power company.

The issue had led to a walkout on Thursday, but the Opposition’s demand then was to remove from the Chief Minister’s office Tenny Joppan, a personal staff member, besides instituting a judicial inquiry into what the affair was all about. On Friday, the Opposition went directly at the Chief Minister alleging that he was in the know of what was happening — his office exchanging 70 phone calls and messages with the woman involved in the deception case — and yet did not act.

Moving a submission soon after the zero hour on Friday, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the issue had become really serious in the context of a statement by Government Chief Whip P.C. George on certain television channels on Thursday night. Mr. George had said he had forewarned the Chief Minister about the implications of the liaison his office was maintaining with Saritha S. Nair, the woman now in police custody on charges of cheating several investors.

The Chief Minister refuted the charge. He said Mr. George had spoken to him about the subject only on June 4, a day after the woman was arrested following complaints of cheating. All aspects of the case, including whether she had received any help from his office, were under investigation by Additional Director General of Police A. Hemachandran.

“You should not make it sound as though Mr. George had said this to me well in advance. He took me aside after a meeting of the Periyar Tiger Foundation in my office on June 4 and told me about the issue. In fact, she was taken into police custody on June 3. Yesterday he made this statement and today [on Friday] he is gone to Erattupetta [his constituency],” Mr. Chandy said. Mr. George was not in the Assembly on Friday.

Mr. Balakrishnan said those who had sunk large sums of money on the fraudulent company had gone on record stating that the woman and her associate Biju Radhakrishnan had been flaunting their connection with the Chief Minister’s office and other top people in the government to win the confidence of the investors. Now the Government Chief Whip himself had made an allegation. The police could not be trusted to do a clean investigation when the Chief Minister himself had come under a cloud in this controversy, he said.

When Mr. Chandy refused to concede to the demand for a judicial inquiry, the Opposition members started shouting slogans demanding his resignation and trooped out of the Assembly hall to hold a demonstration in front of the Assembly Complex.

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