In a major setback to the 142-day-old communist government in Kerala, Industries and Sports Minister E P Jayarajan, facing charges of nepotism, resigned yesterday.
The resignation came on a day when an anti-corruption court snubbed the state government counsel for failing to respond to its query on the action taken over the charges and the opposition turned up the heat on Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) also started an investigation into a letter from the leader of the opposition, Ramesh Chennithala, demanding Jayarajan’s prosecution under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988.
Jayarajan has been under fire for doling out plum government posts to his close relatives and cronies who lacked prescribed educational qualifications and professional experience.
“At the meeting of our state secretariat, Jayarajan admitted to having erred in appointing his close relative as the managing director of a public sector unit and offered to tender his resignation,” said Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist) which leads the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF).
“He sought permission to resign to uphold the image of the LDF government and prove that it’s different from others and previous governments. The secretariat has allowed him to quit.”
Later, a communique from the office of governor, P Sathasivam, said he had accepted the minister’s resignation and allocated his portfolios to the chief minister.
The CPM is expected to pick up his successor soon. Suresh Kurup, Raju Abraham and V K C Mammed Koya, also an industrialist, are the frontrunners to hold the significant portfolio of the state with a poor record of industrial output.
Meanwhile, the Congress-led opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) stepped up attack on Vijayan saying his protege would not have made those appointments without his consent.
“His role in these postings should also be investigated,” said Congress president V M Sudheeran.
Jayarajan was under tremendous pressure to quit after many leaders in his party came out against his continuing in office. The coalition partners also pointed out that the controversy had dented the government’s image in a short span of time.
The government had allegedly doled out plum posts to the relatives of several CPI-M leaders and their cronies flouting all norms.
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