Tense Onam for Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan as hearing in SNC Lavalin case nears
Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala, has brought with it tense moments for Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan this year, as the Supreme court is set to take up the CBI's appeal in the crucial SNC Lavalin case on September 13.
Two of the courts had earlier exonerated him in the case.
An adverse verdict from the apex court asking him to face a trial would mean curtains for Vijayan, as, back in 2006 when the CBI named him as an accused in the case, the then CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat had held that since Vijayan does not hold any Constitutional post he need not quit as CPI-M state secretary.
So if asked to face a trial, he might have to step down for all practical purposes.
On August 25, a bench of Justice U.U.Lalit directed the registry to post the hearing in the case for September 13, adding that it should not be put away.
Vijayan was discharged as an accused by both -- the CBI special court in the state capital city and the Kerala High Court in 2017.
In December 2017, the CBI approached the Supreme Court contending that Vijayan should face trial in the case.
But since, the hearing kept getting deferred for one reason or the other. In 2021 alone, it was kept aside four times.
The case pertains to concerns the loss of Rs 374 crore in the Kerala State Electricity Board's (KSEB) contract with the Canada-based SNC Lavalin for the renovation and modernisation of Pallivasal, Sengulam and Panniar hydroelectric projects in Idukki district, in 1996, when Vijayan was the State's Power Minister then in the cabinet of E.K.Nayanar.
Ever since, the Congress in Kerala has been crying foul alleging a secret pact between the bigwigs of the BJP in Delhi and Vijayan as the case was progressing at a snail's pace.
Notably, after getting a clean chit from the High Court in 2017, Vijayan who hardly meets the media, immediately called for a press meet and slammed the Oommen Chandy government which in 2006 handed over this case to the CBI, just before the Assembly polls then.
Sources in the know of things alleged that when M.B.Rajesh, who was the Speaker of the Assembly, was sworn in as a Minister on Tuesday, despite a vacancy for one more minister in the cabinet, Vijayan did not tinker with the portfolios. He has decided to wait for the court's verdict.
State Education Minister V.Sivankutty's fate also looks uncertain as he has been asked to appear before a local court here on Wednesday, when the charge-sheet of his and five others of their indulging in vandalism in the floor of the Assembly in 2015, will be read out.
So when that happens, Sivankutty too in all likelihood will have to quit and this means two new faces will replace Sivankutty and the one left vacant by Saji Cherian.
"If things don't go well for Vijayan, he will have to bow out and hence only Rajesh was sworn in on Tuesday. The CPI-M national leadership is closely watching the turn of events, as if Vijayan has to resign, there will be major reshuffle," said the source on condition of anonymity.