As the solar scam makes a comeback, political woes mount for Kerala Congress(B) leader Ganesh Kumar

A CBI report submitted in court points out how Ganesh Kumar tried to trap former CM Oommen Chandy in a sexual assault case.

ByK A Shaji

Published Sep 11, 2023 | 10:30 AMUpdated Sep 11, 2023 | 10:30 AM

As the solar scam makes a comeback, political woes mount for Kerala Congress(B) leader Ganesh Kumar

The infamous solar panel scam that rocked the Oommen Chandy-led Congress government in Kerala exactly a decade ago is back in a different avatar — and it could ruin the political career of film actor-turned-politician KB Ganesh Kumar.

Ganesh Kumar, a part of the ruling LDF in the state, is an MLA and chairman of the regional outfit Kerala Congress(B).

The CBI — which exonerated Oommen Chandy in the sexual assault case filed against him based on a complaint by solar scam prime accused, Saritha S Nair — has informed the chief judicial magistrate court in Thiruvananthapuram that the scam and related allegations were part of a larger conspiracy hatched by Ganesh Kumar, his party’s former general secretary C Manoj Kumar alias Saranya Manoj Kumar, and a controversial middleman who acted on behalf of the Saritha Nair.

Their larger objective was to defame the Chandy government and help the CPI(M)-led LDF to wrest back power, according to the CBI documents furnished in court.

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Ganesh Kumar’s troubles with CPI(M)

saritha Nair

Saritha Nair, prime accused in the solar scam case. Photo: Supplied

The development comes less than two months after the death of Chandy, a Congress heavyweight and two-time chief minister of Kerala. And just a couple of days after his son Chandy Oommen won with a massive mandate in the bypoll held in Puthuppally Assembly constituency, which his father continuously represented for 53 years.

As far as the politically-ambitious Ganesh Kumar is concerned, the CBI move comes at a time when his continued membership in the LDF as a junior constituent is hanging in balance. A well-known actor, he is a five-time MLA from the Pathanapuram segment.

The LDF leadership, especially Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, remains non-committal about an earlier promise to Ganesh Kumar that he would be inducted into the state Cabinet once the government completed half its five-year term — which will be in another two months.

The Chief Minister’s Office last week removed KG Premjith, a nominee of Kumar’s party, the Kerala Congress(B), from the chairmanship of the Kerala State Welfare Corporation for Forward Communities (KSWCFC) without citing any reason. A CPI(M) leader was appointed in his place.

Though the LDF reinstated Premjith following intense protests from Ganesh Kumar, the development indicated the front’s displeasure with the actor-politician, who often takes stands opposed to those of the LDF.

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Reasons for CPI(M) displeasure

Ganesh

K B Ganesh Kumar, LDF MLA from Pathanapuram. Photo: Supplied.

Kumar, known for his veiled criticism of the government, has earned the displeasure of the chief minister for his scathing attack against Public Works Minister PA Muhammed Riyas, who is also Vijayan’s son-in-law, two weeks ago at a public meeting, LDF sources told South First.

With one of his two sisters levelling serious allegations against Kumar, including illegally usurping properties due to her, the LDF apparently now considers the Kerala Congress(B) leader a liability, and believes inducting him into the state Cabinet would further erode the front’s credibility.

Ganesh Kumar has, in recent weeks, also earned the CPI(M)’s displeasure by defending Nair Service Society general secretary G Sukumaran Nair when he attacked on Assembly speaker AN Shamseer for calling Ganapathy a myth, and also for criticising Tamil Nadu Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin for his interpretation of the Sanatana Dharma.

Kumar is the only LDF leader to have attacked Udhayanidhi over the controversy.

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UDF closes doors on Kumar

On his part, Kumar had been sensing trouble for quite some time, and his close associates confirmed to South First that he has been preparing to switch back to the Congress-led Opposition UDF ever since the death of Oommen Chandy — whom he praised as an epitome of virtue when he died.

He has also praised some other state leaders of the Congress and exchanged pleasantries with them during campaign breaks in the Puthuppally Assembly bypoll. Some Congress state leaders have also made statements welcoming him back to the UDF.

Pillai

Late R Balakrishna Pillai, father of Kumar. Photo: Supplied

But on Sunday, 10 September, young leaders of Congress party, Rahul Mankoottathil and Shafi Parambil, went into attack mode by writing strong Facebook posts against Kumar, who, according to them, had backstabbed Oommen Chandy.

Quoting the CBI report submitted in court, they declared that they would resist tooth and nail any attempt by Kumar to re-enter UDF. UDF cadres were seen expressing solidarity with the youth leaders by endorsing the post.

By evening, Opposition leader VD Satheesan spoke to the media, giving clear hints to Ganesh Kumar that the front was not in a mood to forget and forgive.

Meanwhile, Manoj Kumar, the former Kerala Congress(B) general secretary, and former MLA PC George told the media that Ganesh Kumar played a significant role in damaging the reputation of Oommen Chandy by faking the sexual abuse allegation.

Manoj Kumar had left Kumar’s camp long ago, and George, once close confidant, went to the extent of claiming Ganesh Kumar had acted against Oommen Chandy at the behest of Vijayan.

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What CBI told the court

The Thiruvananthapuram unit of the CBI filed its investigation report in court last week, giving a clean chit to Oommen Chandy, saying there was no evidence he abused the main accused in the solar scam case.

However, the report contained damaging references to Ganesh Kumar, Manoj Kumar, and Nandakumar, a Kochi-based controversial “middleman”, whose whereabouts are not known.

According to the CBI, the name of the former chief minister did not figure in the original complaint drafted by prime accused Saritha Nair implicating UDF leaders in the alleged sexual abuse case. Saritha was in remand custody for financial fraud when she drafted the complaint.

The CBI said the name of the former chief minister was interpolated into the complaint later.

Chandy

Chandy Oommen with PC Vishnunath MLA close to the body of his father Oommen Chandy. Photo: Supplied

The central agency also produced a statement by Saritha Nair’s driver to contend that the middleman had acted on behalf of Ganesh Kumar and facilitated Saritha’s meeting with Vijayan.

The CBI statement confirmed that Ganesh Kumar collected the petition from Saritha, who was in jail, for manipulation and submission to the police later. Manoj Kumar had also given a similar statement.

The CBI also said Ganesh Kumar sought an investigation by the agency into Saritha’s allegations just before the 2021 Assembly election. It was on his insistence that the Vijayan government handed over the case to the CBI.

The CBI could not gather any evidence to back the claim by the complainant that she was sexually abused at Cliff House, the chief minister’s official residence.

The report also said that Saritha had urged George to act as a witness in the sexual abuse case. But, in his statement to the CBI, George denied having witnessed any sexual abuse.

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Ganesh Kumar’s mounting woes

When the second Vijayan government assumed power in 2021, Kerala Congress(B) ‘s lone MLA, Ganesh Kumar, was considered for the post of transport minister. During his early stint as transport minister in the then-Oommen Chandy government, he had earned a reputation of being an efficient administrator.

But Chandy dropped him from his Cabinet after his then-wife gave a written complaint that the minister used to subject her to domestic violence.

After he joined the LDF, the front backtracked from making him a minister after Kumar’s elder sister, Usha Mohandas, met Vijayan and then party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and convinced them that he had fabricated documents to deprive her of parental properties legitimately due to her.

Then, the LDF told him to wait until the ministry completed half of its term and allocated the transport portfolio to Antony Raju, leader of another Kerala Congress faction.

Ganesh Kumar’s father, R Balakrishna Pillai, was a towering politician in Kerala, and the allegation against the son is that he forged a will to usurp most of the properties of his father spread across the Kottarakkara and Pathanapuram areas.

As the half-term of the ministry is fast approaching, Usha Mohandas met media persons last week and opined that it was not appropriate for the LDF government to consider her brother for the minister’s post at a time when the property case was in court.

The complaint filed by Usha against Kumar is under consideration in the Kottarakkara sub-court. The examination of the documents has been completed, and the case is proceeding to a hearing.

When South First sought to reach out to him, Ganesh Kumar’s staff said he has nothing to share with the media.