February 2018
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Former Kerala minister AK Saseendran to return to cabinet ? congress cries foul
(Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 27, 2018):A day after a Kerala court acquitted former Transport Minister and NCP leader AK Saseendran in the sleaze tape case, he appears all set to return to the Pinarayi Vijayan cabinet.

Calling the Mangalam TV honey trap case an old issue, NCP’s state chief TP Peethambaran on Sunday hinted that there was no objection for his party colleague’s re-entry to the Kerala cabinet. An elated Saseendran also told reporters in Kozhikode that the decision to regain his ministerial post will be taken after consulting everyone including his party colleague and his replacement in the cabinet, Thomas Chandy, who was forced to step down last November over land grabbing allegations.

"Will discuss with Thomas Chandy as well. All opinions will be considered. Thomas Chandy is not my enemy and I don't think that there was a conspiracy against me within the party," Saseendran said.

NCP has only two MLAs in the Left Democratic Front.

Saseendran was Transport Minister until March 2017 when newly-launched Malayalam news channel Mangalam TV aired an audio tape where a man was speaking inappropriately with a woman. The channel alleged that the voice was that of Saseendran, and that he had called the woman and spoken to her for sexual favours, after she came to him asking for help. It later came to light that it was a case of honey trapping.

When Saseendran stepped down as minister in March 2017 Chandy succeeded him, retaining the lone ministerial berth of the party. But Chandy, who was Saseendran’s replacement, was also forced to resign after eight months following allegations that he encroached upon land to construct a luxury private resort in Alapuzha.

Since then, Chief Minister Pinarayi has been handling the portfolio, a clear indication that the berth will be reserved for the party. Following Chandy stepping down, the NCP held the view that the ministerial berth will be allocated to either Chandy or Saseendran, depending on who is cleared of the charges first. “It would be like first come first get basis, the ministerial berth will be gone for him who will first acquitted by the court,” Peethambaran had told media persons.

On Saturday, the Thiruvananthapuram First Class Judicial Magistrate Court acquitted Saseendran, clearing his path to return to cabinet. The court also dismissed a fresh Public Interest Litigation asking for re-investigation in the case.

But politicking has begun over his likely re-entry. Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said that by giving the ministerial position to Saseendran once again, the real face of the LDF, which often takes the moral high ground on issues, has been exposed. “His acquittal by court doesn’t mean that what was wrong is not wrong. Everyone had heard the voice of Saseendran in the audio clip. He hadn’t denied that it was his voice. His sudden resignation was caused by guilt,” Chennithala said in a statement.

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