In a fresh trouble for Congress-led UDF government in Kerala, a day after Finance Minister KM Mani quit over graft charges, CPI-M veteran VS Achuthanandan, on 12 November, demanded probe into corruption charges against Excise Minister K Babu.
Hotelier Biju Ramesh, who had accused Mr Mani of taking bribe for reducing the licence fees of bar hotels, also levelled charges against Mr Babu, saying he also took Rs. 10 crore as bribe in the same scandal.
Reacting to the allegations, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said his government cannot be cowed down by such allegations.
Claiming that his government was committed to fighting corruption, Mr Chandy said, "Let it come. What new evidence has been put forward by Biju Ramesh?' he asked. The issue (bar bribary case) is being discussed in the state for the past one year", he added.
Mr Achuthanandan shot off a letter to the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau Director seeking a 'quick verification' on the charges by hotelier Ramesh.
"I will approach the court if a quick verification is not held within a specific time," Mr Achuthanandan said, who had opposed the proposed closure of probe against Mr Mani.
Biju Ramesh, Working President of Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association, had alleged that he had handed over Rs. 50 lakh each on two occasions at the Secretariat office of the excise minister in Kochi.
Mr Ramesh also offered to provide more evidence and face a lie detector test.
He also challenged the excise minister to undergo the narco-analysis test. Putting up by a brave face, Mr Babu, a close confidant of Chief Minister Chandy, denied the allegations and said he was not afraid of the case.
Mr Babu, who had already filed a defamation case against Biju Ramesh for levelling the bribery charge, also claimed the hotelier wanted him to withdraw the case.
"Biju Ramesh had sent a message through a common friend that I should withdraw the defamation case," Mr Babu said adding he will continue with the legal battle.