The Transport Minister of Kerala Shri A.K. Saseendran resigned on Sunday, just hours after a newly launched private channel aired an alleged obscene/lewd conversation with a woman who had approached the minister for registering a complaint. A congressman from his student life, he has been a prominent face in Kerala Politics for more than 30 years. When Sharad Pawar rebelled against Sonia Gandhi’s stewardship in the late 90s, he too joined the Nationalist Congress Party, which then became part of the CPI(M) led Left Democratic Front (LDF) in the state. A first time-minister, he was handling the troublesome Transport Minister which oversees the debt-ridden and inefficient PSU, KSRTC. The Transport Ministry is notorious for knocking ministers off their perch, with 8 ministers resigning in 50 years, coincidentally, two of these were a result of sexual harassment allegations. A man of measured words, he has been seen as a dignified personality, the allegations have been perceived to be entirely inconsistent with this image that his cultivated. This resignation has been a graceful exit compared to the staple of Kerala Politics. The standards for morality and ethics were set dubiously low by the previous UDF Government that the allegations against Shri Saseendran seems like a trifle. The UDF Government’s treatment of the allegations-which involved both the allegations of corruption and sexual favours/fraud dictating public policy stand in stark contrast to how Shri Saseendran has handled the allegations. Allegations of sexual impropriety against Politicians have a long history in Kerala. The allegations that caught attention in recent memory were those against The IUML candidate for the Malappuram Bypoll, Strongman K.Kunhalikutty, dogged by the allegations of abusing minor girls in the sensational Ice Cream Parlour case, and was forced to resign in 2005. Just a year later, PJ Joseph, the then new minister in the Achuthandan Ministry had to resign over allegations of misbehaviour with a lady co-passenger. The allegations against the previous UDF Government are so numerous and expansive that one cannot possibly list them in short here. There were allegations against the then Chief Minister Oomen Chandy, and Ministers Adoor Prakash, Arayadan Mohammed as well. Yet despite the allegations against the coterie of ministers, no resignation took place. These Allegations made by Saritha Nair, against the personal staff of minister as well, the “Solar Scam” rocked Kerala Politics. Nonetheless, the ministers and the Chief Minister continued in office. It is in this context that one must see Shri Saseendran’s immediate resignation as a welcome break from the past in Kerala Politics. It would only be fair to recognise that he has taken the morally and ethically right decision. The ethical and moral questions of media airing this extremely crude audio or the nature of media scrutiny in personal life of public figures is an issue that must be raised and dealt with separately; and should be a topic of discussion and debate in civil society. Meanwhile, the LDF Government faces yet another crisis over the allegations after EP Jayrajan’s resignation over nepotism in appointments, and it has not come at a good time, with the Malappuram bypoll around the corner. This is bound to give more strength to IUML.
“I should bring no shame to any party worker or to the voters of Elathur (His home Constituency)”, Shri Saseendran said, explaining his decision to resign. “My innocence will be proved in an investigation”, he said. A judicial enquiry has been ordered against the allegations already, and Kerala eagerly awaits to know the truth of this matter.