(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 10, 2011
LDF's Fight against Corruption
Receives Further Boost
THE perception among the people of Kerala about the LDF government led by chief minister V S Achutanandan, as a staunch fighter against corruption received a further boost with developments in the infamous lottery case. The central government in a counter affidavit filed in the Kerala High Court on April 5 expressed its willingness to order a CBI inquiry into the affairs of lottery promoters in the state – a big climbdown after union home minister Chidambaram and prime minister Manmohan Singh stonewalled several requests from Kerala government in this regard.
Not only this climbdown, the Additional Solicitor General M Gopala Subramaniam stated in the High Court that the central government fully appreciated the action taken by the Kerala chief minister V S Achutanandan and finance minister Thomas Isaac in this issue. Their correspondence with the prime minister and the union home minister on this issue was valued, he submitted. The bench expressed its displeasure at the centre's role by questioning why no action was taken despite so many letters written by the CM to the highest authorities in the central government. The court finished arguments in the case and reserved it for orders.
Reacting to the developments, chief minister V S Achutanandan demanded the resignation of home minister Chidambaram if he has any self respect left in him. If he does not resign, the prime minister must dismiss him, he said. Talking to reporters in Palakkad in the midst of his election campaign, the chief minister said the counter affidavit filed and the court remarks vindicated the position taken by the LDF government on this issue. The centre itself was forced to accept in the affidavit that the state government has acted in a legal manner on this issue. Therefore the UDF leaders must feel ashamed for the reckless charges they levelled, said Achutanandan.
It may be recalled that the issue of private lotteries, particularly those operated by promoters registered in other states, became a big issue in Kerala for the last few years. Each lottery operator has to pay tax for each draw to the state government. But many promoters conduct more number of draws illegally and evade taxes. According to a Kerala vigilance department report in 2006, the state government had lost nearly Rs 14,000 crore has been lost in such a manner. When the state government sought to take action to recover the amounts and curtail these lotteries, the promoters approached the courts under the plea that they are registered lotteries of other states and the state government has no jurisdiction. The LDF government refused to accept tax from one major lottery player, Megha Distributor owned by lottery king Santiago Martin, disputing the calculations and demanding revised figures. Megha Distributors approached the High Court seeking an order against the state government's decision. At a time when the UDF was unleashing a slander campaign that the CPI(M) was hand in glove with Megha Distributors, Congress national spokesperson and lawyer Abhishek Singh Manvi flew to Kochi to argue the case on behalf of Megha Distributors! A thoroughly embarrassed Congress state leadership made Singhvi back out from the case, with great difficulty and after Youth Congress activists burning his effigy in Kochi.
Not just Singhvi, home minister P Chidambaram had also appeared on behalf of Megha Distributos in 2003 as a counsel challenging the Lottery Act that gave powers to the state lottery director to monitor lotteries from other states. Chidambaram's wife Nalini Chidambaram has also appeared for Megha Distributors in a case against the state government.
Given these facts, is it any wonder that home minister Chidambaram and prime minister Manmohan Singh refused to act on the pleas of the LDF government for a CBI inquiry and other stern measures against the lottery distributors? The Left campaign against corruption and the image of the LDF government as a staunch fighter against corruption has received further boost with these developments.