Realizing that more skeletons would tumble out of the cupboard, the CPM state secretariat on Thursday chose to validate the alleged misuse of public funds by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan who opted to travel in a chartered helicopter for a party function, by citing precedents. Later, he returned to Thrissur to participate in the party meeting again.The up and down journey expenses of Rs eight lakh was reimbursed from the Relief Fund.
The controversy erupted at a time the government was requesting people to contribute to the chief minister's relief fund to help the cyclone-affected people. He had flown from Thrissur, where he was attending a CPM district meet, to meet the officials. The total amount spent on the Central team adds up to Rs 18.5 lakh when the chief minister's helicopter expenses are also added.
Vijayan cancelled the official's order later, saying it was done without his knowledge. Vijayan had rushed to the state capital on 26 December to meet an inter-ministerial central team on a visit to assess the damage caused by the "Ockhi" cyclone which had hit the state's southern coast on 29-30 November.
The opposition Congress and BJP alleged that the government was making the senior bureaucrat a scapegoat, and demanded an apology from the chief minister for what they called misuse of cyclone relief funds.
The Kerala government spent Rs 10.5 lakh for an 8-member Central team that visited the state to assess damages from Cyclone Ockhi.
The BJP State General Secretary M T Ramesh wrote to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh seeking to monitor the utilisation of Ockhi Relief Fund, a party release said.
Also, the Latin Catholic Church, whose clout runs deep among south Kerala's fishing community, criticised the alleged fund diversion.
The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a notice to Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC-Lavalin corruption case based on the CBI appeal against the discharge of Kerala Chief Minister and two others from all charges.
The CBI said the High Court accused it of adopting a "pick and choose" policy in naming certain persons as accused.
Meanwhile, Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan has asked for an explanation from additional chief secretary PH Kurien over the issue. That was why the State Disaster Management Authority issued the order for the payment from the disaster relief fund, it was stated.