Kerala gold smuggling case: Opposition steps up pressure on Pinarayi Vijayan-led govt
With assembly elections eight months away in Kerala, the opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have announced a series of protests seeking the resignation of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is on the back foot after the high-profile gold smuggling case.
BJP state president K Surendran observed a one-day fast on Sunday and Congress-led UDF will bring a no-confidence motion against the government in the assembly on Monday. As the ruling front enjoys a majority (90 in the 138-member House) in the assembly it will not affect the stability of the government but the debate can embarrass the government further.
“The CM’s private secretary was suspended and the key accused in the smuggling case had a good rapport with his office, all agencies say it but the CM says his office was in no way connected with the smuggling case. Nobody will believe it,” said former CM of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis inaugurating the day-long fast of Surendran online.
Basking in the Covid-19 recovery rate glory, being the first state to report the virus but with the lowest mortality and high recovery rates, the gold smuggling case surfaced at a bad time for the government. A week after the seizure of 30 kg gold from a consignment in the United Arab Emirates consulate in the state capital, the CM was forced to suspend his powerful private secretary M Sivasankar, a senior IAS officer.
The Enforcement Directorate has also started investigation against another minister K T Jaleel, who reportedly accepted funds and 4000 kg ‘gift’ from the consulate in March. Though the minister pleaded that these consignments were holy books the opposition alleged that some of the packets contained smuggled gold. If the minister’s version is right, he can’t get away from the foreign exchange management act, experts say.
“After the gold smuggling case came to light many other corruption cases also surfaced. The CM can’t run away from these correction charges. In the Life Mission project serious irregularities came to light,” said Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala seeking a probe into the Life Mission project. While probing the smuggling case the Life Mission project commission came to light—the main accused in the smuggling case Swapna Suresh said she accepted a hefty commission for the project.
As the barrage of charges increased the ruling CPI (M) has asked party workers to inform people about what it called “a joint onslaught by Congress-BJP combine” and “highlight good works of the government.” On Sunday it organised a state wide sit-in against the Centre’s polices including privatisation of airports. The party had locked horns with the Centre over its move to lease out Thiruvananthapuram airport to Adani Enterprises.