NEWS LDF PROTESTS
TVM: The CPIM-led Left Democratic Front is organising massive protests across the state on Monday against the alleged “over-reach” of the central investigating agencies to probe a string of suspected corruption cases as also drug-related and smuggling cases in Kerala. Over 25 lakh party activists are called in to the streets for the protest even bypassing the Covid-linked norms.
The protest is against the investigations by the Enforcement Directorate, the CBI and the Customs into cases linked to the Life Mission housing project for the poor, as also the arrest and investigations into the drug racket allegedly involving a son of CPIM politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan. Alongside, there are also the extensive probes into the smuggling racket suspectedly also linked the UAE consulate here and a top state government official in cahoots with a Arabic-proficient Malayali woman executive.
The investigations into several cases happening simultaneously at the fag end of the Pinarayi government’s five-year term have come as a huge embarrassment to the CM and his party leaders.
Sensing trouble, the state government had recently withdrawn the general permission for CBI to probe cases in Kerala, and made it clear such investigations require prior state government permission. A similar decision had been taken by Andhra Pradesh nearly two years ago when Nara Chandrababu Naidu of the TDP was chief minister there. The Maharashtra government too recently took such a stand. As per the Indian Constitution, which emphasizes on the federal structure of the nation, all such probes need be done with consent from the state government. So far, a general permission existed everywhere, which is now being withdrawn by states like Kerala.
The CPIM and its allies feel, or are trying to convey an impression to the public, that the BJP government at the Centre is misusing the central agencies to put the governments of other parties into the defensive mode.
Initial investigations showed that the team of Swapna Suresh and M Sivashankar, both accused in the infamous gold smuggling racket, had obtained commission from the international Red Crescent for the Life Mission project in Vadakkancherry.
An amount of Rs one crore and two kg gold were found in the bank lockers of Swapna Suresh in TVM by the investigating agencies. She told the investigating officials that this was what she got as her share of commission from Red Crescent for the Life Mission project, in which she had acted as a go-between for the state government at the behest of Sivshankar, who was the principal secretary to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Swapna’s present husband is related to Sivshankar, who was in the leftist camp since his student days.
The Enforcement Directorate told the Kerala high court later that the money actually belonged to Sivshankar, and not to Swapna. It could even be proceeds from the smuggling racket, officials suspect. It is suspected that an amount of Rs four crore had changed hands by way of “commission” for grant of Rs 20 crore by the Red Crescent for this project. Detailed investigations are currently on and Sivshankar was being put through fresh grilling by the probe agencies on Monday.
Central investigating agencies, also including the National Investigating Agency (NIA), are looking into the possibility of linkages between the gold smuggling racket and terror financing in India, and the case is serious.
The CPIM is more cut up with the ED and CBI arresting and interrogating Bineesh Kodiyeri, son of Kodiyeri Balakrishnan the state CPIM secretary who is currently on leave on health grounds. His links to drug-rackets are being investigated. The case has its genesis in the arrest of one Mohd Anoop in Bengaluru after a pack of drugs was seized from his multi-storied hotel there. Anoop, who started the hotels only in recent times, told the investigating officials that his business was being funded by Bineesh Kodiyeri. This led the ED to reach out to Bineesh, arrest him and probe his sources of funds. Raid of the Kodiyeri home in TVM followed, much to the embarrassment of the CPIM leadership.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who handles the state police force, did not openly comment about the raid after senior party leaders held a meeting at the state party headquarters and decided that it would be better not to interfere with the ED or CBI probe in this respect, lest wrong signals will go out to the public. The state police made a feeble attempt, though, to waylay the investigating officials’ vehicle, but did not succeed.
The central agencies are investigating several deals of the state government including the Kfone scheme, Smart City project, and the E-mobility hub project, all flagship initiatives of the LDF government in which Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan took special interest, obviously to push them to success. In the process, it would primarily appear that things went seriously wrong at some levels. This is casting a shadow over the impressive performance of the Pinarayi government on several fronts in the past nearly five years.
Till a few months ago, the Congress-led Opposition was groping in the dark as to how to get a stick to beat the government with. Now, it has several sticks at its command. The term of this government ends in May next. –IHN-NN
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