In a setback to the Pinarayi Vijayan government, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition by state Transport Minister Thomas Chandy for quashing the Alappuzha district collector's report which alleged large-scale land grab by him to build a plush resort.
The division bench of the court of Justice P.N. Ravindran and Justice Devan Ramachandran came down heavily on Chandy and observed that it was very strange what a state Minister has filed a petition against the state government "which questions the failure of the collective responsibility of the cabinet".
Through the judgment, Chandy has lost all hope of continuing as a Minister.
In the state capital, hectic political parleys began late on Tuesday evening in the aftermath of the court decision. Vijayan arrived at the state party headquarters and was closetted with CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and later with his cabinet colleagues on what needs to be done with the now-tainted cabinet colleague Chandy.
Chief Minister Vijayan told the media that the decision of Chandy's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is awaited. "We will look into the complete judgement and the right decision would be taken at the appropriate time," he said.
Vijayan had come under fire from several quarters for protecting Chandy, much against the wishes of the other allies of the Left Front government.
Ever since the allegation of land grab surfaced three months back, the Congress-led opposition, the BJP and even the second biggest ally of the Vijayan government - the Communist Party of India - had been demanding the resignation of Chandy.
Vijayan had very strongly defended Chandy on the floor of the Assembly.
Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala told reporters in Palakkad on Tuesday that it's surprising that while Vijayan was quick to get the resignation of his close aide E.P. Jayarajan and A.K. Saseendran, in Chandy's case that did not happen.
"This clearly shows that the 'money power' of Chandy holds sway and Vijayan has a soft corner for him," said Chennithala.
Former state Congress president V.M. Sudheeran termed Vijayan "a coward of the first order" for failing to ask Chandy to quit and added that the Chief Minister should resign.
"Never before has the court made an observation that the cabinet has lost its collective responsibility. Vijayan appears to have stumbled before the 'cash rich' Chandy and Vijayan is also now an accused like Chandy as he has failed to ask for his resignation," said Sudheeran.
State BJP general secretary M.T. Ramesh said it's a shame that the court has come down heavily and questioned the very essence of Vijayan's governance.
"Vijayan is scared of Chandy as it now appears that his money power reigns supreme. The image of the Left government has taken a severe beating," said Ramesh.
Meanwhile, Chandy is at Kochi and is likely to reach the state capital late in the night to take part in the weekly cabinet meeting held every Wednesday.
NCP state acting president T.P. Peethamabaran said a decision on Chandy would be taken by the NCP parliamentary board.
"We stand behind Chandy, but the final decision rests with the Chief Minister," said Peethamabaran.
"The Left Democratic Front has entrusted Vijayan to take the appropriate decision," said State CPI secretary Kanam Rajendran.
The controversy over Thomas Chandy's alleged land grab surfaced after Alappuzha district collector T.V. Anupama submitted a report in August saying that portions of the Marthandam Lake had been usurped for building the Minister's plush Lake Palace Resort, besides a paddy field was levelled for a parking lot for the resort.
The Congress party in Kerala was put in an embarrassing spot after the party's senior Rajya Sabha member Vivek Tankha, a former Additional Solicitor General of India, appeared as counsel for Chandy.
A group of Youth Congress activists waved black flags at Tankha and shouted slogans just before he left for the Kerala High Court.
The state leadership of the Congress has expressed their strong resentment to the party high command.
Speaking to the media later, Tankha said they are studying the verdict and will decide on what needs to be done. He dismissed the question on why he appeared for a political opponent.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)