Battling land grab charges, Kerala Transport Minister Thomas Chandy on Wednesday submitted his resignation to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who forwarded it to the Governor. Chandy was alleged to have got a road constructed through government-owned land and levelled water bodies to facilitate easier access to his Lake Palace Resort located near the Punamada Lake in Kerala. Chandy is the third minister quitting the Kerala government in just 18 months. The first to go was Industries Minister E P Jayarajan who quit last year. Saseendran followed in March this year.
Speaking to the media at the Secretariat later, NCP leader T P Peethamabaran said the resignation letter had been handed over to Vijayan. "All the details will be told to you at 2 pm".
Sources close to Chandy said he will approach the Supreme Court on Thursday and it has been decided that the slot meant for the Nationalist Congress Party in the cabinet will be left vacant.
"Chandy's resignation letter has been forwarded to the Governor," Vijayan said while leaving his office.
On Tuesday, the Vijayan government suffered a setback when the Kerala High Court dismissed a petition filed by Chandy for quashing the Alappuzha Collector's report, which alleged land grab by Chandy's resort. Earlier on November 8, the High Court had pulled up the state government and asked whether it would take the same stand 'if the encroachment was done by a common man'.
Also, a Kottayam vigilance court had ordered verification of the land encroachment allegations filed against Chandy.
The Communist Party of India (CPI), earlier in the day, boycotted the weekly Kerala Cabinet meeting to protest Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's non-intervention in transport minister Thomas Chandy's land encroachment case.
Vijayan, however, on his part, said the cabinet did not discuss Chandy's issue, adding that the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) state president TP Peethambaran Master and Chandy had met and told him that they would get back to him after discussing the issue with the NCP national leadership.
"The Cabinet didn't discuss Thomas Chandy's issue. Today I had a discussion with him and NCP's TP Peethambaran.
The NCP will discuss it with their central leaders and inform their decision," Vijayan said, in a press conference.
The chief minister, confirming that the CPI ministers did not attend the cabinet meeting, added, "Minister Chandrasekharan has a letter that it was their party's decision to not attend the cabinet meeting, which Thomas Chandy is attending."
He also said that Thomas Chandy had the right to attend the meeting.
Vijayan had earlier said the government would take an appropriate decision after considering the High Court's observation in the land encroachment case.
Chandy was present at the weekly cabinet meeting. While leaving for a meeting with the NCP leadership, he told the media that he was not quitting.
On Wednesday morning, Chandy drove to the Vijayan's residence with NCP acting President Peethamabaran and held a 40-minute discussion.
Chandy is a three-time legislator representing Kuttanad in Alappuzha district.
With a business empire in Kuwait, he first entered politics through the Democratic Indira Congress (DIC), a party floated by Congress veteran K. Karunakaran in 2005.
In the 2006 assembly polls, DIC was an ally of the Congress-led UDF. After the polls, DIC merged with the NCP.
Chandy became a minister after his senior party colleague A K Saseendran had to quit after sleaze allegations surfaced against him.