Sex abuse-charged Muslim leader to be minister in Kerala

via VR Jayaraj | Thiruvananthapuram published on May 16, 2011

Muslim League general secretary PK Kunhalikutty, facing a probe with regard to the allegation of sexually abusing a minor girl, will be sworn in as a minister in the Kerala Cabinet of Congress-led UDF’s designated Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Wednesday even as parleys are continuing in the coalition over allocation of ministerial positions to front constituents.

After a meeting of the Muslim League leadership in Malappuram on Monday evening, Union Minister E Ahmed declared Kunhalikutty as their legislative party leader. He also said that Kunhalikutty would take oath as Minister on Wednesday. Kunhalikutty’s inclusion in the Cabinet is sure to attract intense protests in the coming days.

The Muslim League has 20 MLAs in the 13th State Assembly where the total UDF tally is 72, just one seat above what is needed for absolute majority. The Congress itself has only 38 seats in the House. This situation enables the Muslim League to go to any extent in bargaining with the Congress, according to observers.

Ahmed told newsmen that the leadership meet had entitled State Muslim League president Syed Hyderali Shihab Thangal of Panakkad with the right to select and declare the names of the party MLAs to be included in the Cabinet. Decision on the portfolios to be demanded for the Ministers of the party would also be taken later.

Replying to newsmen’s queries, Kunhalikutty, who also took part in the brief press conference, said the Congress had not stated that the Muslim League would be given only four Cabinet berths. “Those reports are media’s creation,” he said. Ahmed said only the Chief Minister and the legislative party leaders of front partners would take oath on Wednesday.

A special investigation team of the Kerala Police is presently conducting a probe against Kunhalikutty over the allegation that he had made the witnesses and victims of the infamous ice cream parlour sex scandal change their former statements against him by paying them hefty sums of money and using threats.

Rejina, a victim and witness in the case, had earlier told the court, police and the media that Kunhalikutty had sexually abused her at three different places in 1996 when she was a minor. However, she turned hostile when the case reached the court. Kunhalikutty was accused of making her change the earlier statement using bribes and threats.

Kunhalikutty was forced to resign as industries minister in the then Chandy Cabinet in 2004 following intense State-wide agitations over the ice cream parlour sex scandal. The scandal resurfaced in January last following certain new allegations against Kunhalikutty by his close relative KA Rauf, a businessman.

Meanwhile, discussions continued on Monday in the UDF over the allocation of Cabinet berths to constituent parties. While no decisions could be reached at on the number of positions to be given to the Kerala Congress (M) in the talks with the Congress, the Socialist Janata (Democratic) nominated its MLA, KP Mohanan, to the Cabinet.

KC(M) chairman KM Mani told newsmen on Monday after bilateral talks with the Congress in Thiruvananthapuram, “There has been no decision on the number of berths. Also there was no decision on the portfolios. In short, no clear decision on any issue has been taken.” The party has nine MLAs in the Assembly.

The Kerala Congress is negotiating for three ministerial positions and the post of the deputy speaker while the Congress is determined not to give more than two positions to it. However, KC(M) sources said the party was not ready for any compromise. Mani said discussions with the Congress would continue on Tuesday.

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