Kerala minister Thomas Chandy resigns over land encroachment row

0
112

Bengaluru: Kerala transport minister Thomas Chandy resigned on Wednesday, ending a month of crisis for the ruling coalition in which alliance partners and opposition leaders alike demanded his exit.

The resignation comes a day after the state high court rapped Chandy for staying on as minister even after a probe report named him for potential irregularities at his lakeside resort.

Chandy, a member of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), handed in his resignation to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, PTI reported quoting NCP state president T.P. Peethambaran.

Vijayan, who met reporters after a meeting of the state cabinet, admitted there was dissent within the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) over the issue. Chandy, the state’s richest legislator, is a member of the NCP, constituent of LDF.

Ministers from Communist Party of India, or CPI, the second biggest constituent of LDF, had boycotted the cabinet meeting to mark their protest against Chandy’s presence. In an editorial on Wednesday, CPI mouthpiece Janayugom sharply criticized Chandy and asked him to quit “without wasting even a minute”.

Vijayan said CPI ministers had submitted a note before the cabinet meeting, informing their party that they need not attend the cabinet meeting if Chandy was present. This is unprecedented and should not have happened, Vijayan said.

On the resignation demand, Vijayan said, “I met NCP leaders today (Wednesday) morning. They are supposed to discuss the matter with their national leadership and get back to me soon… In a coalition government, I cannot take all decisions on my own… will wait for the decision from NCP.”

Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM leaders, who attended the cabinet meeting, also demanded Chandy’s resignation, regional news channel Manorama News reported.

According to the channel, public works minister G. Sudhakaran said at the meeting that a single minister had put the government in a crisis for about a month.

An official investigation had found that a lake-side resort run by Chandy in a pristine location in Alappuzha district may have potentially violated environmental laws and encroached upon government land, among other illegalities, while building an approach road and reclaiming a portion of the lake for setting up a parking lot. Chandy, though, moved the high court, challenging the probe’s findings. The court rejected Chandy’s petition on Tuesday and asked why the government had not sacked him for opposing an official probe. The court asked the minister to step down and face the law as a common man.

Chandy had said on Tuesday that he will not resign until Vijayan asked him to do so.