Kerala govt seeks permission from Guv, Assembly speaker on launching probe against Oppn leader

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Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 21 (PTI) The CPI(M) government in Kerala has sought permission from the Governor and Assembly speaker to launch a probe against Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala and two former ministers in the backdrop of recent disclosures in the Bar Bribery case with the Congress saying the move was 'politically motivated.' The development comesas the three phase local body polls are set to commence from December 8 and the left government is facing heat over multiple central agencies probing the Kerala Gold Smuggling case and Life Mission projects.

Biju Ramesh, a liquor baron, had recently repeated his allegations that he had paid bribes to Chennithala, then KPCC president, and K Babu and V S Sivakumar, former excise and health ministers respectively,during the tenure of the previous UDF government.

Following the fresh disclosures, vigilance had conducted a quick verification and sent the file relating to further investigation to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

The file has been sent to Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and Speaker P Sreeramakrsihanan's office, CMO sources said.

Reacting to the development, Chennithala said he welcomed any probe on the matter.

'Six years ago, I had denied the allegations when I was KPCC president. My hands are clean. No one has offered or accepted any bribes'.

The presentmoveis politically motivated , the veteran congress leader told reporters here.

Two vigilance directors-- Sankar Reddy and Jacob Thomas had probed the allegations and found no substance in it.

Three probes had rejected the accusations,he said adding theopposition was being targeted as the government is on a backfoot over the various allegations raised by the UDF against the government and the investigations by the central probe agencies.

The matter is before the Kerala high court and it is surprising how the CM has given nod for preliminary probe on a matter which is subjudice, Chennithala wondered.

'I am very happy. Letone more probe be held. Do not scare us with the probes,' he said, hitting out at Vijayan.

Chennithala had also written to the governorstating that the allegations had been probed and were found baseless.

KPCC President Mullapally Ramachandran said the chief minister was acting in 'vengeance'to target opposition leaders.

Biju Ramesh, former working president of the Kerala state Bar Hotel Owners Association, had alleged he had handed over crores to the UDF leaders .

He had also alleged that leader of the Kerala congress Jose K Mani faction had offered money for withdrawing the bribery allegationsagainst his later father and KCM leader K M Mani.

Mullapally also sought to know if the chief minister would order an investigation relating to the accusation against Jose.PTI UD ROH ROH