The Kerala unit of the Communist Party of India has expelled legislator Bhargavi Thankappan from the party for accepting bribe from Manichan, the prime culprit in the Kalluvathuckkal hooch tragedy that claimed 31 lives.
The action came on the basis of findings of Justice Mohan Kumar Commission appointed by the government to probe the hooch tragedy that occurred during the fag end of the tenure of previous Left Democratic Front government, in which the CPI was the second largest partner.
The decision to expel Ms Thankappan from the party was taken by the Thiruvananthapuram district executive committee of the CPI apparently on the direction of the party's state leadership. The district council that met on Sunday has ratified the action.
The action is bound to mar the political career of Ms Thankappan, who was being groomed by the CPI as an important leader to take up higher responsibilities. Besides three terms in the assembly, the party had given her a chance to represent the Lok Sabha as well. She was elevated as deputy speaker of the Assembly during the 1987-1991 LDF term.
The young leader had pleaded her innocence, but the party leadership did not accept it as her account books seized by the police showed that she had received regular payments of large sums of money almost every month. They had produced these documents before the Mohan Kumar Commission along with that of seven other political leaders.
The commission could find prima facie evidence in the case of only two others. They are M Sathyanesan and Kadakampally Surendran of the Communist Party of India-Marxist. The proceedings against the others, including two Congress leaders, were dropped.
While the CPI-M has already expelled Sathyanesan, a member of the party state committee, it is yet to take a decision in the case of Surendran, who was a member of the legislative assembly when the deals took place. Unlike in the case of others, Surendran had admitted that he had received money from Manichan, but maintained that it was for the party.
The deals had taken place during the last term of the LDF government headed by the CPI-M. Manichan had expanded his illicit liquor network during the term, which followed the ban on country liquor introduced by the previous Congress-led United Democratic Front government headed by Chief Minister A K Antony.
The chief minister had admitted that the ban was a failure and attributed it to the unholy alliance between politicians and liquor contractors. Besides collection of funds by individual leaders, the CPI-M had also collected large sums of money from liquor contractors through the party channels in the last term for funding its various commercial ventures like television channel, flats, hospitals and tourist resorts.
The party had justified collection of money from Manichan saying that it was not aware of his liquor business when the party leaders took money from him. The party claimed that the state committee had issued strict guidelines on collecting money from various sections as soon as the deals of Manichan came to its notice.
However, the Mohan Kumar Commission has demolished this argument by stating that the payments involved quid pro quo. The vigilance report submitted before the commission had dealt in length about the political patronage offered to the liquor baron.