Mired in a nepotism row, Kerala industry minister E P Jayarajan quit the Left Front government on Friday, invalidating his number-two rank in the state cabinet.
Even as the CPI(M)-led regime sought to portray the resignation as a case of its electoral promise of clean administration, Jayarajan’s instances of favouritism gave a setback to the four-month-old Pinarayi Vijayan administration that rode to power citing the “misdeeds” of the previous UDF government.
CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, announcing Jayarajan’s resignation on Friday, said the outgoing minister admitted his lapses and offered to quit. “Jayarajan has upheld the integrity of government and the party with his timely action,” he told a press conference. “This clearly shows our party is different from others.”
There was no comment from 66-year-old Jayarajan, who is the legislator from Mattannur constituency in upstate Kannur district — a traditional Marxist bastion.
The minister landed the government in trouble recently by appointing two of his close relatives in key positions of state-owned enterprises. Though the placements were cancelled, it embarrassed the government and ruling party.
A fortnight ago, Jayarajan appointed his nephew Sudhir Nambiar as the MD of the Kerala State Industrial Enterprises and niece Deepti Nishad, a graduate, as the general manager of Clays and Ceramics Products Limited.
The matter snowballed into a controversy, prompting the CM to disown the controversial appointments. While Vijayan said experienced and qualified will be filled up in such posts, party general secretary Sitaram Yechury hinted at corrective steps. The CPI, which is a key partner in the ruling front, criticised Jayarajan in the party mouthpiece Janayugam.
This Wednesday, his party asked Jayarajan to submit a list of appointments that had taken place in his ministry, forcing him to offer resignation the next day.
This is not the first time the minister, considered close to the CM, is courting trouble.
When a distraught ex-athlete Anju Bobby George quit as president of the Kerala Sports Council in June, the minister cited the appointment of her brother in the sports council and said the new government will not tolerate nepotism. Recently, many trolled the minister on social media citing his remark and his own actions that followed the statement.
Similarly Jayarajan, known for his foot-in-mouth comments, punched himself in the nose on June 3 when former boxing legend Muhammad Ali died and a TV channel sought his comments. Jayarajan, who also held the sports portfolio, told the media house that the athlete had earned fame for Kerala by brining Olympic medals.
Of late, as charges over nepotism surfaced, the government made Vigilance clearance mandatory for all postings in PSUs and other appointments. Highly embarrassed, the CPI(M) asked ministers and leaders to submit a list of their new appointments.