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Viswanathan must quit: Achuthanandan

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, FEB. 8. The Leader of the Opposition, V.S. Achuthanandan, has sought the Forest Minister, K.P. Viswanathan's resigation in the light of the Kerala High Court's observation linking him with the sandalwood mafia.

Reacting to the court's observation at a news conference here today, Mr. Achuthanandan said Mr. Viswanathan has proved to be a worthy successor to the former Forest Minister by initiating action against the Forest officials who had raided the Walayar Rural Indsutries and unearthed contraband sandalwood pieces.

Immediately after the raid, the officials were threatened of serious consequences by someone who spoke over a mobile phone and Noushad Babu, the first accused in the case who was caught from the factory premises, had told the police personnel that the factory belonged to Mohammed Basheer of Thachampara in Palakkad.

"He is a benami of a former Minister from Malappuram and his business associate. The police would be able to identify who the real owner of the factory is if it holds a detailed inquiry," the Leader of the Opposition said.

KC(B) backs demand

The former Transport Minister and Kerala Congress (B) leader R. Balakrishna Pillai has demanded the resignation of the Forest Minister.

Mr. Pillai said that the senior Congress leader, K. Karunakaran, the former Water Resources Minister, M.P. Gangadharan and he himself had resigned when the High Court made adverse remarks in the Rajan case, the Punjab Model case and the pipe purchase case.

In all these cases, we had resigned on the basis of the judge's remarks. Mr. Pillai said Mr.Vishwanathan could return to office after getting his name cleared. Till such a time, he should remain outside.

`Oust Viswanathan'

The BJP State president, P.S. Sreedharan Pillai, today demanded that the Forest Minister, Mr. Viswanathan, should be ousted from the Ministry and an inquiry ordered into his alleged links with the sandalwood mafia.

The president noted that the High Court had passed strictures against the Minister. It had been alleged earlier that the Minister was trying to help the sandal mafia by ordering a Vigilance inquiry against Forest officials who had detected unauthorised stockpiling of sandalwood at Walayar Rural Industries.

The remark of the High Court now confirmed this.

He called for a judicial inquiry into the corruption involving the UDF Government, higher officials and the sandalwood mafia in the State.

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