Whistleblower bar owner under pressure, Kerala orders probe
Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala bar owner Biju Ramesh, 50, who blew the lid on Finance Minister K.M. Mani's demand of Rs.5 crore for allowing closed bars to remain open, is under pressure to keep silent as the state Sunday ordered a probe into the allegations.
The Kerala government has ordered a preliminary vigilance probe into the allegations as demanded by Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
Ramesh, owner of around five bars here, shocked the state Friday night during a TV channel discussion when he said that of the Rs.5 crore asked by Mani, Rs.1 crore was paid in two instalments at his Pala home in Kottayam district.
He said the money was demanded to allow the 418 bars, closed since the beginning of this fiscal, to remain open.
Ramesh told IANS that after his revelation, he has now come under tremendous pressure from several quarters to lie low and not to go overboard.
The bar owner said: "I am waiting to see how political parties, especially the Left and the BJP, take forward this issue. Moreover, our bar association is meeting on Nov 6. I have gone public by saying that I am prepared to give ample evidence of the corruption."
Ramesh, who also has numerous business interests in education and hospitality sectors, said: "I will now make my next move after I see what these political parties are going to do on this. If none of them take it up, I will do it on my own."
Ramesh's revelation came hours after a Kerala High Court bench suspended a single-judge bench's verdict that directed just 62 of the 730 bars in the state to operate.
The division bench put on hold the single-judge bench's order for 30 days.
The past two days have seen hectic politicking with denials from all sides coming thick and fast. Mani, following a lengthy party meeting, Saturday night said this is a conspiracy but did not reveal the conspirators.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, meanwhile, is leaving for Delhi later in the day and is expected to brief his national leadership on the issue.
Chandy blamed the present situation on state Congress president V.M. Sudheeran, who had said that at no cost should the 418 bars be given licences to operate this fiscal, which the chief minister and his cabinet felt was an impractical decision.
All eyes are now on the bar association meeting Nov 6 to see if they will support or disown Ramesh, who is also the working president of the body.