DOUBLE WHAMMY … On poll eve, Kerala’s CPIM caught in two tricky situations; CM Pinarayi and party chief Kodiyeri fighting serious odds

Kerala State CPIM secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s son Bineesh being led by ED sleuths in raids in Kerala ...


By Prem Chandran/ IHN-NN

TVM: The CPIM in Kerala holds its state committee and party secretariat meetings  on Friday and Saturday in the shadow of massive raids by central agencies on several locations including the home of Bineesh Kodiyeri in Maruthamkuzhi area here since Wednesday. The coordinated raids by Enforcement Directorate with back-up security from the CRPF and a team of the Karnataka Police followed questioning of Bineesh, son of state CPIM secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, in suspected funding for drug-related activities centering around Bengaluru by his associates. 

The arrest of Mohd Anoop, a native of Vennala in Kochi, in Bengaluru a month ago in connection with a drug racket in the IT City led investigating teams to the doors of Bineesh Kodiyeri. Anoop, who ran a multi-storied hotel at Koathagudem in Bengaluru for some time now, told the Enforcement Directorate sleuths who interrogated him that his boss and financier was Bineesh. Anoop was arrested after a drug stock seizure from his hotel in a laid-back locality. Initial assumptions are that Bineesh was part of a huge drug peddling racket, which fetched him millions, and that he used sources in the Kerala police to indulge in such activities without being caught.  

The state party has washed its hands of the case involving Bineesh by saying he has nothing to do with the party and that it was up to him to defend himself. However, the party has egg on its face. The embarrassment comes over and above the arrest by Enforcement Directorate a week ago of M Sivashankar, who was principal secretary to the CMO – chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office in the state secretariat. This followed the busting of a gold smuggling racket via diplomatic channels through the TVM international airport. Sivashankar, a conferred IAS, was CM’s most-trusted lieutenant and a Leftist from his student days.

The lid was off the long-running gold smuggling racket when, at the start of June, the Customs detained the diplomatic bag of the UAE consulate in TVM. On a search, it was found to be carrying clandestinely smuggled gold bars. Diplomatic bags are generally not checked on the basis of the immunity the envoys and their bags enjoy in every country.

While the Opposition Congress and the BJP made best efforts to corner the chief minister himself, nothing so far indicated that the CM had any inkling of the smuggling racket involving, among others, a state IT cell staffer Swapna Suresh. Swapna, who had formerly worked with the UAE consulate,  was closely associating with Sivashankar, related to her present husband. Swapna has told the ED that it was the senior official who helped her get the IT department job, by virtue of her specialization in Arabic and PR skills. The state government used her for its multiple business-related engagements in the UAE. Sivashankar had allegedly been involved in several of her financial transactions and other activities outside of the official framework, it turned out during the investigations.

The embarrassments for the CPIM come at a critical juncture. The state assembly polls are due in April-May next. Also. in a month’s time, the state goes to Civic Polls, in which local issues matter more than the image of the state government or the party. Yet, the overall mood is already downbeat for the ruling LDF, mainly due to the scandals that envelop those close to the CM at official level and the Kodiyeri family at the party level.

Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, CPIM

The two sons of state CPIM secretary — Binesh and Benoy — are infamous for their wayward activities. There, though, is no allegation personally against Kodiyeri other than that he possibly went out of his way to help his sons on various fronts through back channels. Bineesh was widely seen to be helping in transfers and postings of the government staff at senior levels, and reportedly collecting huge bribes from officials. Government officials have a tendency to try for such postings that help them make huge money by way of bribes  — as in the PWD, Revenue department etc. Rather, every department under both central and state governments is now trading essentially in influence, nepotism and bribes due also to the free-wheeling corruption by politicians of all hues.

Even BJP leaders, though the party has never been in power in the state, are now largely engaged in corrupt practices. The former state BJP chief Kummanam Rajasekharan himself was at the centre of a case in which tens of lakhs were taken by his close aides for the facilitation of a business enterprise in Palakkad area. The case was finally settled a few days ago when the money was returned to the complainant.

Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister

Pinarayi Vijayan took power in 2016 by declaring that he would keep a distance with all influence-peddlers. In the past four years, he even kept senior CPIM functionaries at a distance. The CM was virtually unapproachable to most party leaders. In the process, he got himself encircled by bureaucrats like Sivshankar, who virtually ran the CMO on his own whims, for most part. The CM had kept a senior CPIM leader MV Jayarajan, from the red-lit Kannur stock, as his political secretary for a couple of years, and then eased him out. With Jayarajan in the CMO, it was easy for the likes of Bineesh Kodiyeri to get their things done in the CMO and government circles. Ministers like EP Jayarajan and KK Shailaja Teacher are also from the Kannur stock of CPIM politicians. So are CPI minister E Chandrasekharan (Kasaragod, in Kannur’s vicinity) handing the revenue department and AK Saseendran the Transport minister. Bineesh probably operated through all these.

While perceptions are strengthening that the feisty Kanur lobby in the state CPIM, which is led by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan himself, has taken the party to cleaners. So much dirt has stuck on the party now through their actions. This could also lead to a situation in which when a replacement for Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is sought, someone outside of the Kannur lobby could be preferred. Kerala is Pinarayi Vijayan’s fiefdom, and the central party leadership listens to him for most part. Politburo member MA Baby from Kollam is among the senior-most but has less of contact with the ground-level partymen. Another name in the reckoning is of G Sudhakaran, state PWD minister, who has an image of being clean. What stands in his way could be his temperamental nature. His organizational skills are well-acknowledged from the student days.

Kodiyeri Balakrishnan is faced with serious health problems and went to the US for treatment nearly a year ago. He recovered health only in part. He was in a mood to quit also as new scandals surrounding his sons have emerged. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and politburo member S Ramachandran Pillai, presently camping in TVM, persuaded Kodiyeri to continue in the post for now, else wrong signals will be sent to the general public. Kodiyeri’s term as state secretary ends in a few months’ time.

It is clear from the present investigations that Bineesh Kodiyeri played with crores of money. Where he got these from is an unanswered question if the reference is to proper channels. He ran some businesses, and they were flops. His actor roles in Malayalam movies hardly fetched him any wealth. Clearly, he used his father’s position to engage in rackets, is how CPIM leaders themselves read the script. His brother too is equally controversial and had ended up in scandals and cases. 

Kodiyeri Balakrishnan hailed from a poor Nambiar family in Kannur. His teaming up with Pinarayi Vijayan in the party set-up helped him grow politically; Kodiyeri’s support was crucial for Pinarayi Vijayan too, in terms of communal equations. The Kannur party is mostly composed of Thiyya-Ezhavas and Nambiars. Most of those who lost their lives in political clashes and bloodbaths were Thiyya-Ezhava youths; who are traditionally known as Chekavars, or briefly as Chovas in slang language. Chekavars are part of the Kerala’s celebrated martial art legend in the region. IHN-NN


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