The CPI (M)-led LDF government in Kerala was today left red-faced after it cancelled an order for payment of an helicopter journey conducted by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, from the State Disaster Relief Fund, with the issue triggering a row.
A statement issued by the chief minister's office (CMO) said the order for the payment has been cancelled as per the chief minister's directive.
The helicopter was hired for Vijayan's "to and fro journey" from Thrissur to Thiruvananthapuram on December 26.
As per the order, the cost of the journey was Rs.8 lakh.
With the opposition Congress slamming the government for allegedly misusing the fund meant for Ockhi Cyclone relief work, the CMO issued a statement later in the day stating that the order for the payment from the state disaster relief fund was cancelled.
The statement said the order for the payment was issued without the knowledge of the chief minister or the CMO.
It also clarified that the helicopter was hired for Vijayan and other ministers' journey on December 26 for a meeting with the visiting inter-ministerial central team that had come to assess the damage caused by the cyclone.
That was the reason the State Disaster Management Authority issued an order for the payment from the disaster fund, it was stated.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala hit out at the government and said it was very unfortunate that the chief minister used the fund meant for cyclone victims for travelling from a party conference venue.
Chennithala also claimed the order for the payment was issued on January 6 and it was cancelled after the "government was caught red-handed."
The government "virtually wriggled out" of the matter by cancelling the order, he added.