Nothing unusual about my chopper ride: CM Pinarayi Vijayan

Are you a feminist? Rima Kallingal asks Pinarayi Vijayan

Kochi: Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who also chairs the State Disaster Management Authority, is entitled to use a copter under provisions of the Disaster Management Act 2005, which his predecessors have used in nearly similar circumstances. To the query about CM's return trip to Thrissur to attend party conference, Balan retorted sarcastically, "Would he had to travel by a bullock cart?" Sources said several of the trips undertaken by Vijayan to New Delhi to attend the CPM politburo meetings had been funded by the state government.

Vijayan cancelled the official's order later, saying it was done without his knowledge.

Gone are the days when the party was deeply divided between Vijayan and former Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, who, even though he led the campaign from the 2016 assembly elections, was upstaged by the former and prevented from occupying for the Chief Minister's chair a second time.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala hit out at the government and said it was very unfortunate that the chief minister used the fund meant for cyclone victims for travelling from a party conference venue. Vijayan had rushed to the state capital on 26 December to meet an inter-ministerial central team on a visit to assess the damage caused by the "Ockhi" cyclone which had hit the state's southern coast on 29-30 November.

"He owes an apology to the state", said former chief minister Oommen Chandy.

"The government fund was utilised for a private goal", he said alleging the Chief Minister "has committed corruption to the tune of Rs eight Lakhs (cost incurred for the journey)".

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State BJP President Kummanem Rajasekheran said denounced Vijayan.

In a bid to end the controversy, the CPI-M Secretariat which meets here on Thursday is likely to foot the bill of Vijayan's helicopter ride. The LDF government also came in for criticism from the Latin Catholic Church, to which most of the cyclone affected fishermen belong, over the issue.

A statement issued by the chief minister's office (CMO) said the order for the payment has been cancelled as per the chief minister's directive.

Church officials said the incident was a pointer to the possibilities of Ockhi relief fund getting diverted instead of reaching the deserving persons.

Meanwhile, Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan has asked for an explanation from additional chief secretary PH Kurien over the issue.

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