by Srinivasa Prasad
You can be reasonably sure that con-queen Saritha Nair was watching on the TV the ruckus outside and inside the Kerala assembly on Friday morning and grinning with joy. The Left leaders, shouting themselves hoarse about her allegations against Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, disrupted the governor’s address to the assembly, walked out and marched on the roads.
And hardly had all this ruckus subsided on Friday when she struck again with a fresh bombshell: she handed over to the solar scam inquiry commission a sealed cover, apparently with “proof” of her sexual abuse by Congress politicians. She has also promised to come up with digital evidence of a meeting she had with Chandy.
Like a hammer on a nail, Saritha has been coming down on Chandy for some time now. Accused of cheating investors and customers of crores of rupees in a solar power project, she has neatly turned the tables on him. Last week, she told the inquiry commission that she had paid the Chief Minister a bribe of Rs 1.9 crore. Earlier this week, she gave the judge CDs of her chats with Chandy’s associates.
And each time she comes up with a “revelation”, Chandy and his men — they have left several questions about their roles in the scam unanswered—squirm in their seats and issue knee-jerk denials.
Chandy’s troubles are no doubt piling up fast. The Saritha affair, along with the allegation that bar owners bribed ministers, is sure to dominate the run-up to the assembly election three months away. If the Left returns to power, as it hopes it will, the police will only be gung-ho with new enthusiasm to investigate her “revelations”. And there is no end in sight to her litany of charges.
Saritha, 37, who also called herself Lakshmi Nair in Kerala and Nandini Nair in Tamil Nadu, can be depended upon not to “reveal” everything in one fell swoop. That’s not her style. She will keep hurling new allegations, dropping new names and adding new bizarre twists to the drama in a slow, drip-feed fashion to prolong her pleasure in watching Chandy’s pain. Her disclosures may not amount to clinching proof that he personally took money. But they are tailor-made to create confusion, to pit one Congress faction against another and to take up prime TV time. To enhance suspense and add to the effect, she often drops hints in advance as to what she will reveal.
And with each new twist, the scam unravels like a crime-sex thriller—except that this story, like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, seems to have no heroes. Chandy might have looked like a hero, if he quit. He hasn’t, and in public eye, he is part of the all-villain cast. And that precisely is what Saritha wants him to look like: If she is a she-devil, which she insists she isn’t, Chandy isn’t exactly lily-white either.
Having been behind bars twice before for other frauds, one each in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, having resigned herself to prison sentences in all her con jobs including the solar scam—she was arrested in 2013 in the solar case and released on bail eight months later—and having found her love life in a mess and her criminal career in a shambles, she wants to inflict pain on those who she believes caused her misery.
She told the media last week: “I won’t get back the things I have lost. So I have decided to reveal everything.”
Will she reveal at some point who the father of her second son born in jail in 2010? She once said he is a “popular, young leader”. Whether she exposes him or not, she seems to have a bagful of other tricks. Well, she is simply furious.
Behind her cheesy smile, stylish make-up and celebrity-like aplomb before TV cameras is black anger, which shows up in occasional fits while answering reporters’ questions. It’s clear from her outbursts that she holds her ex-lover and scam partner Biju Radhakrishnan responsible for messing up her personal life. And she is cross with the Chief Minister and some of his partymen for a betrayal that shattered her get-rich-quick solar hoax.
Her personal life can’t be messier. She married an NRI in 1997 and, some time later, ran into Biju. In 2005, Biju’s wife accused Saritha of trying to ruin her marriage. After divorcing her husband in 2006, Saritha began to live with Biju. The same year, Biju’s wife was found dead, and the police—the Left Front was ruling Kerala then—closed the case as “unnatural death”.
In 2011, Saritha and Biju floated a solar power outfit and swindled customers and investors, using Chandy’s name. After Chandy took over and after the solar storm broke out, the police arrested Biju in 2013, saying he had killed his wife by giving her poisoned liquor and strangling her. He is now undergoing life sentence. Meanwhile, Saritha had turned against her lover.
She believes that Biju exploited her to seduce politicians and woo investors and then fell for a Malayalam actress Shaloo Menon (who too was arrested and let off on bail). She has hinted more than once that Biju squandered or siphoned off most of the scam money. But she needs to do little to fix her former lover. The man fixed himself by confessing to his wife’s murder.
That leaves Chandy and his partymen as Saritha’s chief targets.
Available evidence suggests that some Congress politicians may have indeed pocketed money to clear the path for the solar fraud. Saritha is boiling with fury because they not only didn’t help her but even washed their hands off when she was unexpectedly arrested after an investor complained of cheating.
There is indeed no evidence yet to prove that Chandy himself took money. But there are questions screaming for answers. Important among them are:
Did the three members of Chandy’s personal staff, whom he sacked in 2013—one of them was arrested—for their proven links to Saritha, act on their own?
Why did some Congress leaders close to Chandy tell Saritha to go soft in her deposition before the Sivarajan commission?
Till the Chief Minister convincingly answers such questions, Saritha will regularly toss her bombshells. And each time she does it, CPM’s politburo member and chief-minister-in-waiting Pinarayi Vijayan will smile broadly. It’s another matter that his smile will turn into a frown, if the High Court decides later this month that he should face trial in the “Lavelin case” which is a whole lot bigger than the solar scam.