CPM in dock over yet another scandal

via PNS | Thiruvananthapuram - Daily Pioneer published on February 18, 2009





Even
as the CPI(M) is facing a devastating credibility crisis over its State
secretary Pinarayi Vijayan’s alleged role in the SNC Lavalin corruption
scandal, the party has been thrown into the whirlpool of yet another
controversy with State committee member and Law and Ports Minister M
Vijayakumar is accused of corruption in the proposed Vizhinjam harbour
project.

The State Assembly on Wednesday witnessed heated
arguments between the Opposition and Treasury benches and an Opposition
walkout over the issue, with the Congress-led UDF alleging that
large-scale conspiracy had taken place in the awarding of the contract
to a consortium headed by a Hyderabad company for the development of
the Rs 8,000-crore International Deep-Sea Container Transshipment
Terminal project at Vizhinjam.

VD Satheesan of the Congress, who
submitted notice for an adjournment motion on the matter, alleged that
there had been a big conspiracy behind the awarding of the contract to
Lanco Kondappally Power Ltd even without opening the tender document of
a major aspirant, Mumbai-based Zoom Developers.

He demanded a comprehensive probe into all matters related with the tender process
for the port project.

Satheesan
alleged that the redoubtable urgency shown of the Government for
awarding the contract to Lanco Kondappally Power had led to the loss of
Rs 332 crore the State could have got if the tender from Zoom had been
accepted.

The Supreme Court last week ordered resumption of
the tender process a new considering the tender document submitted by
Zoom. While Lanco Konbdappally had offered Rs 115 crore to the
Government as BOT payment, the Mumbai-based consortium had offered Rs
447 crore.

However, the Government had gone for the offer of Lanco even without opening the document from Zoom.

In
his reply, Minister Vijayakumar tried to face an irate Opposition with
arguments, saying that it was for the first time in history that
allegations were being leveled in the name of the content of a document
which was never opened.

But this became a trap for the
Minister himself as the contents of the document, mainly the part of
the payment quote, had already been presented by Zoom in the Kerala
High Court in an affidavit.

Vijayakumar could be seen struggling
to find the right answers for the questions posed by the Opposition
with regard to the whole tendering process.

Faced with such a
situation, Vijayakumar resorted to the strategy of blind attack, saying
“a pack of vultures were hovering over Vizhinjam to ensure that the
project is never implemented”. He asked ‘these vultures’ whom they were
helping.

The Minister said there was no corruption or
irregularity in the tendering process and the Government would go ahead
with the project as per legal advice. Speaker K Radhakrishnan refused
leave for the adjournment motion after the Minister’s reply following
which the Opposition walked out.

After walking out of the House,
Satheesan told newsmen that the Government had acted as more loyal than
the king to protect the interests of the Lanco Kondappally Power.

“One
company said that it would give Rs 447 crore while the other quoted Rs
115 crore. The contract was awarded to the latter and the court
questioned the rationale behind it. Then the Government, not the
affected company, ran to Supreme Court with an appeal which effectively
said we are ready to lose Rs 332 crore. How strange it is?” he asked.

The
Congress MLA also alleged that some higher-ups in the Government and
the Hyderabad-based company had planned to start a lucrative real
estate business in the name of the Vizhinjam port project.

He
said while Zoom Developers had asked for only 60 acres of land on
mainland for the project, the Government had issued notification for
acquisition of 1,088 hectares for the sake of Lanco.

“This was
part of a plan to launch real estate business,” he said. PC George MLA
of the Kerala Congress (S), an ally of the Opposition UDF, had the
other day demanded a judicial probe into the irregularities in the
tendering process for the Vizhinjam harbour project by keeping
Vijayakumar out of the Cabinet.

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