Amit Shah visits Kerala as Vijayan govt battles to rid gold smuggling taint
As the rift between the Left democratic front government and the Centre widened over the gold smuggling case, Union home minister Amit Shah arrived in the state late on Saturday for one-day visit to Kerala and bordering Tamil Nadu.
Shah will address the concluding session of the BJP state president K Surendran’s state-wide ‘Vijay Yatra’ at Shankumugham beach in the state capital on Sunday evening. His visit assumes much significance in the backdrop of chief minister Pinarayi Viijayan’s criticism that the Centre was using its agencies to portray the state government in a bad light. Shah’s visit is expected to brighten poll fireworks in the state. “His visit will streamline our vigorous campaign in the state,” said Surendran.
The Centre-state friction over the matter escalated after the customs department filed an affidavit in Kerala high court on Friday linking chief minister, three of his ministers, and assembly Speaker with the sensational smuggling scandal. It also summoned former party secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan’s wife Vinodini Balakrishnan in connection with an expensive smartphone, allegedly gifted by a builder Sanotsh Eapen, who got the contract for the controversial Life Mission project in Thrissur.
The ruling party protested outside the customs office in major cities on Saturday. Attacked personally, customs and preventive commissioner Sumit Kumar later took to social media, saying “intimidation tactics” won’t pay. He said there were many attacks on him and his officers but the state police had failed to probe these cases properly.
“The commissioner had submitted a statement recorded under Section 164 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in the high court in a case in which he was not a party. The motive behind the latest move is to tarnish the image of the government,” said the CM, adding that the commissioner was carrying out the dirty job to help the BJP-Congress “alliance” in the state. He alleged both the BJP and the Congress worked as a single unit in the state to attack the Left front government.
Also Read: Kerala CM slams union minister amid calls for resignation over smuggling case
Earlier, the CM had hit out at BJP's minister of state for external affairs, V Muraleedharan, alleging after his elevation, smuggling from West Asian countries increased manifold. Hailing from the state, Muraleedharan is one of the staunchest critics of the state government. He responded by saying that the government was barking at the wrong tree after its own role in the smuggling scandal unearthed.
The sensational gold smuggling case is a major talking point in the state assembly polls this time. It came to light last July after customs seized 30 kg gold from a consignment that came in the name of an official of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, camouflaged as a diplomatic consignment. Later, the case was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and at least four other central agencies are part of the probe now. The NIA and other agencies arrested 30 persons in connection with the case including the CM’s former principal secretary, M Sivasankar, and questioned a minister and many others in the case.