As central agencies tighten the noose around the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala over a number of issues — including the narcotics and gold smuggling cases — a nervous Pinarayi Vijayan government has launched wild attacks against the INC-led UDF and the union government of Narendra Modi.
Following the arrests of former CPM secretary Koderiyeri Balakrishnan’s son Bineesh Kodiyeri in a drugs case and the chief minister’s former secretary M Sivasankar in the gold smuggling case, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has summoned another secretary of the chief minister, CM Raveendran. The ED had summoned him last month but he could not appear after he tested positive for Covid-19. In trouble, the Vijayan government seems to be believing that offence would be the best form of defence.
Meanwhile, the ED believes that a voice clip attributed to gold smuggling case accused Swapna Suresh was a well crafted “hit job” to portray the agency in an unflattering light to “stall” its ongoing high-profile investigations in Kerala.
Chief Minister Vijayan today approved of vigilance to register a case against opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala and two former ministers in the previous Oommen Chandy government. The revelations of controversial businessman Biju Ramesh form the basis of the case of vigilance.
The liquor baron had claimed last month that he had mobilised Rs 10 crore on the instruction of then excise minister K Babu for a favourable liquor policy during the last UDF regime. He said the first instalment of Rs one crore was paid to Chennithala, Rs 50 lakh to Babu and Rs 25 lakh to another minister VS Sivakumar. But INC politicians said it was a desperate attempt to distract attention from serious trouble that had gripped the government.
“It is nothing but a witch hunt. The central agencies have reached the CM’s office so the government will have to save its face somehow. We are not worried and we will take legal recourse to challenge the retrograde step,” Chennithala said.
Further, the LDF has announced a series of steps against agencies of the union government. On 25 November, it will organise a state-wide protest before the local and civic body headquarters. “The central agencies are being misused to weaken a democratically- elected government. Deviated from the gold smuggling case, it seems they have a one-point agenda to implicate the state government. We will oppose it,” said the LDF. On November 16 also the LDF had organised a protest meeting against the Union government.
The smuggling case surfaced on 5 July with the seizure of 30 kg of smuggled gold from a consignment camouflaged as diplomatic baggage at the UAE consulate in the state capital. Later, Vijayan had written to Prime Minister Modi, seeking a central agency probe. A multi-agency team headed by the NIA is probing the case and 34 people have been arrested so far.
While investigating the gold smuggling case, probe agencies came across alleged irregularities and commissions in some pet projects of the government. When Sivasankar was arrested on 28 October, the government quickly distanced itself from him. However, in Raveendran’s case, it will be an onerous task for the party to drop him.
Besides the government, the party also drew enough flak after the arrest of party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s son Bineesh Kodiyeri in connection with the Bengaluru drugs case. Later, Balakrishnan was forced to proceed on leave.