KERALA

Chief Minister succumbs to outside pressure, says Mani

Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala Congress (M) leader K. M. Mani has alleged that Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan has succumbed to external pressure in deciding against an inquiry into the Ponmudi land scam.

In a statement here on Friday, Mr. Mani said the Chief Minister’s stand on the issue was condemnable and it was intended to protect those who had committed irregularities. The Chief Minister bowed before the Communist Party of India’s pressures despite the other coalition parties’ demand for an inquiry as he wanted to protect his job.

Stamp duty

With regard to the allegation that the United Democratic Front government had reduced stamp duty that fetched benefits to land sharks, Mr. Mani said Mr. Achuthanandan, as the then Leader of the Opposition, had welcomed the then Oommen Chandy government’s decision to reduce the stamp duty based on fair valuation of land. The Assembly had unanimously passed the bill moved by the United Democratic Front government in this connection.

‘VS changed his view’

Mr. Achuthanandan had termed the move as one with good intention. But as Chief Minister, he changed his views to allege that the stamp duty had been reduced to favour Xavy Mano Mathew, who has been in the news in connection with the Merchinston Estate deal.

The ordinance reducing the stamp duty had been promulgated on December 2, 2003, while the sale deed for the Merchinston Estate was signed on March 30, 2005. The charge that the duty rate had been effected one-and-a-half years earlier to favour Mr. Mathews could be only termed as ‘childish,’ he said.

Mr. Mani explained that the Government decided to stay the stamp duty reforms in the light of the complaints regarding the fixing of fair value for land and this was included in the Finance Bill for 2005.

The Chief Minister was making baseless allegations in order to conceal his embarrassment in the Ponmudi land deal, the Kerala Congres (M) leader said.

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