Kerala BJP expels party leader for taking Rs 5.6-crore bribe from businessman

The matter came to light when the findings of an internal probe conducted by the party’s state unit were leaked to the media.

india Updated: Jul 20, 2017 21:55 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala BJP,Kummanam Rajasekharan,RS Vinod
The controversy has taken a heavy toll on the BJP’s image in Kerala. (AP/ For representational purposes only)

The Kerala BJP on Thursday expelled a party leader for allegedly taking a bribe of Rs 5.6 crore from a businessman by promising to help a hospital in Varkala obtain medical college status.

The matter came to light when the findings of an internal probe conducted by the party’s state unit were leaked to the media. Though state BJP chief Kummanam Rajasekharan had earlier denied the existence of such a report, he was eventually forced to expel the accused – state co-operative cell convenor RS Vinod – from the party. “Vinod has committed a grave mistake. His action has put the party in a lot of trouble and sullied its image,” he said in a statement.

“We have zero tolerance towards corruption,” BJP’s Kerala in-charge H Raja told Hindustan Times. CPI(M) MPs on Thursday also raised the matter in the Lok Sabha, demanding action against the BJP leaders.

The leaked report figured prominently in Lok Sabha proceedings on Thursday, with the Congress as well as the CPI(M) demanding explanations from the ruling party. The embarrassed BJP top brass, in turn, sought a clarification from its state unit.

According to the report, a copy of which is with HT, Vinod has admitted to accepting a monetary bribe to facilitate the grant of medical college status to SR Hospital through the Medical Council of India. He allegedly routed the money through Sathish Nair, a middleman in Delhi.

The opposition demanded a CBI probe, questioning the Modi government’s claim of a corruption-free government.“The BJP’s tall claims stand exposed now. We want a CBI inquiry into the kickbacks,” Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said.

Rajasekharan had set up a two-member panel – comprising party members KP Sreesan and AK Nazir – after SR Educational and Charitable Trust chairperson R Shaji alleged that the institute failed to acquire recognition from the council even though he had bribed Vinod. “We found the charges true. There is a mafia working behind the Medical Council of India, and the Centre had appointed the Lodha Commission to overcome it. But incidents like these still happen, and the party has to take a serious look at them,” the concluding part of the report stated.

The probe panel also identified other party leaders who allegedly sought kickbacks from a different hospital in Palakkad district. Though party general secretary MT Ramesh’s name is also said to have cropped up during the investigation, he denied all allegations.

Back home, state Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala compared the alleged scam to Madhya Pradesh’s Vyapam row and demanded a CBI inquiry.

Panel member Nazir wondered how the report was leaked to the media. “It is true that we forwarded it to the state president (from a personal email ID). But it was an internal report, not meant for public consumption,” he said.

Vinod, who allegedly accepted the bribe, claimed internal turmoil in the party was responsible for the report being leaked. Vellapally Natesan, a patron of NDA ally Bharat Dharma Jana Sena, said the Kerala BJP’s internal conflict arose from a controversy over “who received money and who did not”.

The party’s central leadership is expected to subject its state unit to a complete overhaul in the light of the embarrassing incident.

First Published: Jul 20, 2017 20:22 IST