Scandal puts govt. in a spot ahead of Assembly session
Forest Minister A.K. Saseendran appeared to have put the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in a spot ahead of the second session of the 15th Kerala Assembly scheduled to commence on Thursday.
A mobile phone voice clip that purportedly portrayed the Minister attempting to shield a party aide from scrutiny in a sexual harassment case went viral on mainstream media. The scandal has provided ammunition to the Opposition argument that the LDF’s recent campaign against dowry, gender injustice and misogyny, Sthree Paksham, was a pretence.
Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan said Mr. Saseendran had used the heft of his office to coerce a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) worker to prevail on his daughter to withdraw a sexual harassment complaint she had filed against a State-level party leader. The victim had stated that Mr. Saseendran had stuck a menacing tone with her parent. The Minister seemed to know the case registered at the Kundara police station in Kollam intimately.
Mr. Satheesan said the Minister had misused his office to afford government protection to a sex offender and had urged the NCP worker to settle the case amicably. The Minister’s continuation in the Cabinet was morally untenable. Political propriety demanded that Mr. Saseendran resign forthwith.
Mr. Saseendran has denied the current allegation. He said he had merely intervened to settle a dispute between two NCP workers. He was not aware of the true nature of the complaint and did not know it was a case of sexual harassment. The NCP State leadership has hinted that it would investigate the episode.
As Transport Minister in the previous LDF government, Mr. Saseendran had taken a lot of stick from the public in 2017 for allegedly getting embroiled in a salacious telephonic conversation with a woman who posed as a reporter for a fledgeling television channel. The channel later aired the conversation, unleashing a political storm that swept Mr. Saseendran out of office.
Mr. Vijayan later reinstated Mr. Saseendran after the police concluded that he was “the victim of a sting operation launched by the channel to gain relevance and viewership.”
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