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C. Gouridasan Nair
LDF appreciates Joseph's decision to quit Kuruvilla had headed nodal agency overseeing the scheme
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Left Democratic Front (LDF) has accepted the Kerala Congress (Joseph) nominee T.U. Kuruvilla as replacement for his party chairman P.J. Joseph in the Cabinet, but not without reservations.
An urgent meeting of senior LDF leaders was held late on Monday night to discuss the situation arising from Mr. Joseph's resignation as Public Works Minister following adverse findings in an informal investigation into his alleged misbehaviour with a woman while flying from Chennai to Kochi on August 3.
The meeting, attended by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and LDF convener Vaikom Viswan, besides other senior leaders, was appreciative of Mr. Joseph's stand on the issue and his decision to quit once the finding of the investigation became known, but was not equally enthusiastic about Mr. Kuruvilla's nomination.
The objection was primarily on account of a cloud of suspicion that hangs over him in connection with the implementation of the Maitri Housing Scheme during the 1996-2001 Nayanar Government. Mr. Kuruvilla was the chairman of the Kerala State Housing Board, the nodal agency that oversaw execution of the project. The Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) has found massive diversion of funds meant for the scheme.
The meeting briefly discussed the pros and cons of the entire episode and the course of action taken by the Government. The consensus was that the steps taken so far had helped the Government and the LDF retain its image intact and send the message to the larger society that there was no question of the front compromising on its stand on issues impinging on probity and credibility of public functionaries.
The leaders were in a mood to accept Mr. Joseph's pleas, but felt that the best option before him was to step down. In fact, some senior LDF leaders had advised him on these lines when he got in touch with them on Monday morning.
He found the Chief Minister also to be of the same view when his meeting with Mr. Achuthanandan took place a little later.
Since the choice of a replacement for Mr. Joseph was an internal matter of the KC(J), there was no way the rest of the LDF leadership could influence the decision. It was decided to allow the KC(J) have things its way and further action in the related issues to be left to the Chief Minister and the Government.
The KC(J) leadership had also communicated its desire to have the swearing-in on Wednesday to the LDF leadership. The LDF leaders had nothing against this, but it was only after the meeting that everybody realised that Governor R.L. Bhatia is away on a visit to his home State.
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