The Supreme Court verdict against Kerala Congress (B) leader R. Balakrishna Pillai has come as a bolt from the blue for United Democratic Front leaders, who fumbled for words in their responses to it.

Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy, Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala, Kerala Congress (M) leader K.M. Mani and others called on Mr. Pillai soon after hearing about the verdict.

They were cautious about their reactions to the verdict, caught as they were between supporting a coalition leader in dire straits and the possible implications of the verdict.

The Kerala Congress (B) also appeared to be in a quandary for some time soon after the news about the verdict came in, but the party's State secretariat rallied around its chairman by stating that a review petition will be filed against the verdict after studying the verdict.

Mr. Pillai's initial reaction was that he was not planning to appeal against the verdict and would surrender himself as soon as he got the summons from the court.

Mr. Pillai maintained that the Supreme Court punished him for a crime he had not committed. For the last 20-odd years, Mr. Achuthanandan had been politically hunting him down. At present, Mr. Achuthanandan was gunning for CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac, he added. Kerala Congress (B) general secretary C. Venugopalan Nair in a statement, soon after the party's secretariat meeting, said the Supreme Court verdict was unfortunate. The verdict was part of the 25-year-old political vendetta and expressed optimism that the party leader had faced several political crises and would survive this one too. The party would face political crisis of any kind, he added. Mr. Chennithala said the verdict would not be a setback to the UDF. In his opinion, Mr. Pillai should file a review petition against the verdict. He said the UDF would react to attempts to corner Mr. Pillai and politically hunt him down.

Mr. Chandy said the verdict was unfortunate and was the outcome of political vendetta. Mr. Mani said the UDF would discuss the issue and take a decision on filing a review petition.

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said he had waged a 25-year legal battle, facing allegations and personal insinuations. “The verdict is a warning to all those who steal public wealth and misuse power,” he added. His struggle against corruption would continue, he asserted.

Unfortunate: NSS

Staff Reporter writes from Kottayam: The Nair Service society (NSS) has termed unfortunate the sentencing of R. Balakrishna Pillai in the Idamalayar dam corruption case by the Supreme Court.

The judgment has come at a time when there is an opinion in society that the case was part of a political and personal vendetta against him, NSS general secretary P.K. Narayana Panicker and secretary G Sukumaran Nair said in a press note. The judgment would not isolate a person with such a record of service to society as Mr. Pillai.