Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 13 : Whistle-blower bar owner Biju Ramesh, whose charges of corruption led to the voting out of Congress-led UDF in Kerala over the ‘bar scam’, on Tuesday accused the ruling CPI-M of cheating and not fulfilling the promise to reopen closed bars once it came to power.
Ramesh, who owned nine bars when the scam came to light in 2014, said the CPI-M State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan had promised that “when the Left comes to power in Kerala, they will re-open the closed bars”.
“We believed what he assured… he promised us that if we stood firm on the bribery allegations against the then Finance Minister K.M. Mani, they will re-open the closed bars when they come to power.
“But the Communist Party of India-Marxist is on the verge of giving a clean chit to Mani in the ‘bar scam’, and this is cheating,” said Ramesh.
Reacting to the development, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in a Facebook post on Tuesday night said the matter is “grave” since it revealed a “political conspiracy” hatched by the then opposition party CPI-M along with the liquor lobby.
“What is even more serious is the fact that Ramesh said present Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and former Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan were also aware of this. During our rule, the issue was probed and nothing came out of it. There was no reason for Mani to quit, but he took the decision,” Chandy said.
On his part, Mani said that on account of this nonexistent case “I had to undergo so much of troubles and I do not want to react on this”.
In 2014, the then Chief Minister Chandy closed down around 700 bars in the state, leaving just around two dozen bars in only five-star hotels.
After Ramesh’s alleged expose on a TV channel that he had paid a bribe to Mani to re-open the closed bars, the latter resigned as Minister in 2015.
The case was used as a major campaign issue by the Left during the Assembly elections in 2016, wherein Chandy and the United Democratic Front won just 47 of the 140 seats.
“By trying to patch up with Mani, they (CPI-M) have not just cheated me, but the people of the state also, as without the help of the CPI-M, Mani will not be able to get out of the case,” added Ramesh.
When Mani had tried to present the Budget in 2015, the Left had created a ruckus in the Assembly, damaging furniture, including the Speaker’s chair.