Kerala transport minister Thomas Chandy facing encroachment charges resigns

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Thiruvananthapuram | Published: November 16, 2017 2:06:47 AM

Thomas Chandy, the richest cabinet member in Kerala, has resigned over land-grab allegations.

Thomas Chandy, the richest cabinet member in Kerala, has resigned over land-grab allegations. (Image: PTI)

Thomas Chandy, the richest cabinet member in Kerala, has resigned over land-grab allegations. Chandy, who handled the transport portfolio, was NCP’s only minister in the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) Cabinet in Kerala. Better known as “Kuwait Chandy”, he runs a string of schools in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. His declared assets in India alone are worth `92.37 crore. He is the director of Water World Tourism Company, which runs Lake Palace Resort, a Rs 150-crore tourism project that became operational 13 years ago. Chandy, who has been hemmed in from all sides with allegations of violation of land-related laws and encroachment of the backwaters for his resort in Alapuzha district, handed over his resignation to party state president TP Peethambaran Master, who handed it over to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan by Wednesday noon. On Tuesday, the Kerala High Court’s division bench of justice PN Ravindran and justice Devan Ramachandran came down heavily on Chandy and observed that it was very strange that a state minister has filed a petition against the state government “which questions the failure of the collective responsibility of the cabinet”.

The controversy over Thomas Chandy’s alleged land grab came to a head in August, after Alapuzha district collector TV Anupama submitted a report saying that portions of the Marthandam lake had been usurped for building the minister’s plush Lake Palace Resort, besides a paddy field was levelled up to create a parking lot for the resort. This was following a series of investigative reports by Asianet News channel, effectively harnessing RTI Act. Chandy had become a minister in Pinarayi Vijayan Cabinet, only eight months ago, after the resignation of his party colleague AK Saseendran over the issue of an alleged sleaze talk with a woman. Earlier in the day, ministers from the CPI boycotted the weekly Cabinet meeting chaired by Vijayan.

Later he told Mathrububhumi TV channel that revenue minister E Chandrasekharan had sent a letter to him while the Cabinet meeting was on, saying their party had decided to boycott the meeting if Chandy is participating in the meeting. Chandy who took off to Kochi told a TV channel that he had decided to resign as advised by the chief minister following the “obstinate stand” taken by “a coalition partner.” Even after resigning, the NCP legislator had little qualms about using the office car of minister and the escort car entourage. What is significant about Chandy’s exit from the Cabinet is that the political drama before the resignation caused grave cracks in the ruling LDF. The long rope that chief minister gave to the multi-billionaire minister has estranged CPI, the second biggest party in the LDF coalition, which expressed its displeasure in public.

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