Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Tuesday that the opposition was resorting to mere gossip to paint him and his family as corrupt because they were finding the non-corrupt image of his government hard to tolerate.
Vijayan was responding to the BJP state president K Surendran's allegation that more details about the commission paid as part of Life Mission deals would come to light if the chief minister's daughter was interrogated.
Initially, it looked like the chief minister was in a mood to ignore Surendran's charge when he was told about it by reporters during his COVD briefing in Thiruvananthapuram. "It will be news even if I don't reply to this. Let it be," he said.
But the chief minister was provoked when he was told that the charge was made by the state president of a party that is ruling India. "It is they (BJP) who should realise that such mentally unstable person was occupying an important position," he said. "Anyone with a normal state of mind can never say what he had said," he added.
Though he questioned Surendran's sanity, the chief minister, even after repeated posers, did not say whether he would move legally against the BJP leader.
In fact, it was a comment by the chief minister that prompted reporters to ask him about the possibility of a legal recourse. "There are many things I would like to tell him (Surendran), but not through a press conference," he said.
The chief minister was unwilling to elaborate how he would do this but when reporters wanted to move to another issue, the chief minister insisted they stayed with Surendran. "You just can't leave this issue," the chief minister kept repeating these words, his voice rising over a reporter's, and then he admonished the media for functioning as Surendran's "megaphone".
He wanted to know on what basis Surendran was making such charges. When he was again asked why he was not approaching the court, Vijayan had a word of advice for the media. "You should be able to see such things as mere gossip. Do you have any facts before you."
According to the chief minister, these charges were part of attempts to mire the LDF government in controversies. "Our political foes are just not able to tolerate the fact that the LDF government was untouched by corruption. So they want to establish that ours is a hive of corruption," he said.
Vijayan then went down memory lane and recalled incidents that would demonstrate that he had led a life of high integrity unlike his political enemies.
He spoke of a time decades ago when the Congress was in power and how honestly and transparently he had conducted recruitments as the president of Kannur District Cooperative Bank. A government-appointed observer had secured money from a candidate to get her selected. "When I knew of it I called up her parents and told them not to give any money to anyone as their daughter would get the job only if she had the merit," Vijayan said.
The girl got selected by merit but Vijayan said he later came to know that the family still had to give the money promised to the middleman.
The chief minister said he recalled the incident to show the habit with which he had grown up. "This habit was a stand against corruption. That is why we have never been touched by corruption. That is also why I could sit before you and talk with my head held high even after so many allegations have been hurled against me," Vijayan said.
He said he was not the kind of person to whom anyone can approach with a bribe. "Just because anyone says something will not make me or my children or my family members corrupt," he said.