Battling land grab charges, Kerala Transport Minister Thomas Chandy on Wednesday quit, becoming the third minister to quit the government of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in controversial circumstances.
After submitting his resignation to his party leader T.P. Peethambaran, who forwarded it to Vijayan, Chandy drove away in his official car to his home in Alappuzha.
En route, at a few places, angry Youth Congress workers waved black flags and threw eggs at his car. But at his home in Alappuzha, activists of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) greeted him with full-throated slogans.
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.
Chandy told the media at his house on Wednesday that the Collector’s report had factual errors.
“In the High Court verdict, one judge was not pleased because I filed the petition as Minister Chandy. I did it as per the advice of my counsel. Once I get the judgement, tomorrow itself I will file an appeal in the Supreme court,” said Chandy.
Chandy insisted that the Chief Minister did not ask him to step down.
“I offered to quit as yesterday’s verdict came with certain observations, denting the government’s image. I then took permission from the NCP leadership and put in my papers.
“My other party colleague is also facing certain charges and whosoever amongst us gets cleared first will become a minister again,” said Chandy.
Speaking here, NCP leader Peethambaran said Chandy’s resignation letter had been handed over to Vijayan. Governor P. Sathasivam accepted it.
“The party decided to accept the resignation letter after lots of discussions… not because Chandy has done a wrong. Our party is with him,” Peethambaran said.
According to informed sources, Vijayan has decided that the slot meant for the NCP in the cabinet will be left vacant.
Chandy was present at the weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday. While leaving, he told the media he was not quitting.
On Wednesday morning, Chandy drove to the Vijayan’s residence with Peethambaran 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.
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.