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  Vijayan's options
  Resign and face the court  
  KERALA CPM chief Pinarayi Vijayan has reportedly decided to question Governor R.S. Gawai's order sanctioning his prosecution in the SNC-Lavlin corruption case. The intention is to get a stay on the Governor's order before September 24 when he has been asked to appear before the CBI court. Leading constitutional lawyers like F.S. Nariman and K.K. Venugopal, whose fees are one of the highest in the country, are likely to appear in the apex court to point out the infirmities in the order and seek relief for Mr Vijayan.

Whatever be the incongruity of spending huge sums of money on defending the secretary of a party which supposedly represents the poorest of the poor, Mr Vijayan's right to defend himself cannot be questioned. Of course, a far better and inexpensive option would have been to prove his innocence in the CBI court where the case would be heard. If he does not get "justice" there, he has, of course, the option of approaching higher courts.

Unfortunately, his party's approach has so far been negative. It is not our contention that as Electricity Minister in the E.K. Nayanar government, he had entered into an agreement with the Canadian company with the intention of lining his pocket. For all one knows, he might not have personally benefited from the deal. It is the party that might have benefited. But this does not mean that he is blameless.

Ever since the issue rocked the state, the CPM leadership, barring Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, has been insisting that Vijayan is innocent. In fact, the Politburo has even "exonerated" him as is borne out by the fact that while the Chief Minister has been demoted from the Politburo, Vijayan remains the party secretary. One of the main reasons for the defeat of the CPM in the last elections was the involvement of the party strongman in the Lavlin case.

It is not the first time political leaders have faced corruption charges. Rajiv Gandhi was accused by Opposition parties, including the CPM, of receiving Bofors money. Laloo Yadav is still facing charges in the fodder scam. In neither case did the highest decision-making bodies of their parties issued statements rubbishing the charges and giving a clean chit to their leaders.

In doing so, the CPM has arrogated to itself the role of the judge. Whether the Governor is bound to follow the advice of the government in the matter or not is a political issue. But as far as his innocence is concerned, it is a matter entirely in the domain of the court. Even now the right course for Mr Pinarayi Vijayan is to step down from the party post and convince the court of his innocence. Any other step will ruin the party.
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