Thiruvananthapuram: After being on the back foot over the allegation that bribes were paid to a few ministers by a bar owner to get the closed bars open, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Saturday hit back by asking where was the evidence which the bar owner's association is said to possess.
State Congress president VM Sudheeran and Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala also put up a brave face and asked the same question about the evidence that the bar owners association said they will reveal.
"At the crucial juncture of giving the evidence, nothing has appeared so far. All these days, it was a series of allegations being levelled and when it came to giving the evidence, nothing came," Chandy told reporters here.
Last Friday, businessman Biju Ramesh, who owns many bars, had claimed in a live TV news programme that State Finance Minister KM Mani was given Rs 1 crore as bribe to get 418 bars in the state reopened.
Later, Ramesh repeatedly threatened to reveal the names of the other ministers and leaders from the political parties in the ruling front who were on the payroll of the Kerala bar owners.
Mani, however, has been ducking the media and giving the slip to journalists.
His close aides and the chief minister who tried to defend him also came under heavy attack from the Left opposition who have demanded that both Chandy and Mani quit.
Ramesh had claimed before the media that he stood by his revelations and has told the vigilance probe team everything.
Sudheeran, who is on a statewide yatra to energise the party cadres, told reporters in the hilly district of Wayanad Saturday that the credibility of the bar owners association has taken a beating.
"Where is the evidence that they said they will produce? Let them come with evidence, then we will do the detailed probe," said Sudheeran.
State Home Minister Chennithala said there is no truth in the media reports that a settlement has been reached to smoothen things between the association and the government.
"No such settlement has been reached and the probe by the vigilance team is underway," said Chennithala.
State CPI-M secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said that the Kerala government and the bar owners association are partners in crime and any attempt to close the graft case on the ground that the money paid was nothing but a donation to the party fund will not be accepted.
"It's the responsibility of the government to find out the truth," said Vijayan.