Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government, which had initially washed its hands of the deal between Unitac and the UAE's Red Crescent for the Wadakkanchery Life Mission project saying the agreement doesn't concern it, has been put on the defensive by the arrival of the CBI to investigate the case exactly 50 days after the controversy erupted.
In the first week of August in the wake of the gold smuggling case, the statement of the smuggling accused, Swapna Suresh, about Life Mission was a revelation that shook Kerala. She had said that she and others had received commission for helping a company win the construction contract for the Wadakkanchery project.
Even though the Opposition raised the issue, the chief minister and others argued that the government had no role in it.
The government countered the protests by calling them an attempt by the Opposition to undermine the project meant to provide housing for the poor. However, the revelations that started coming out daily since then put the Life Mission scheme and the government under the shadow of doubt.
The foreign trips of M Sivasankar, the former CEO of Life Mission and the former principal secretary of the chief minister, and the Enforcement Directorate's discovery that he had met Swapna abroad came as a big setback for the government.
Then the revelation that even the Life Mission CEO who succeeded Sivasankar came to know about the MoU only on July 11, the day it was signed, through a letter from the local government secretary also created a lot of controversy. The Mission did not even know who had drafted the MoU.
The details of the MoU, which were not given by the government despite a letter from the Leader of the Opposition seeking them, eventually came out through the media.
The chief minister's attempts to defend the contention that the Centre had not been informed about the foreign aid for the project and that it could be informed later if necessary also sounded weak.
The war of words between the Wadakkanchery MLA Anil Akkara and Minister AC Moideen reached a level where lawyers’ notices were issued.
Even when it came out that there was undue haste shown in clearing the Life Mission file, the chief minister's standard response was that the government was gathering more details.
Then the claim that Life Mission had no dealings with Unitac, the company that won the construction contract for the Wadakkanchery project, was shattered when details of the emails between them came out.
The CPM state secretariat had suggested to the government to look into the possibility of initiating a vigilance probe into the dealings, but the government did not budge. But the government found itself on the back foot when the Enforcement Directorate requested the documents related to the Life Mission from the Chief Secretary and later summoned the Mission CEO UV Jose for questioning.
Then it was also learnt that a minister’s son had received a bribe in the Life Mission scheme at Wadakkanchery.
Meanwhile, an inquiry started by the Union Ministry of External Affairs into the signing of the MoU also came as a blow to the state government.