Opposition piles pressure on Kerala CM to quit over gold smuggling case
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has been under fire from the opposition ever since his former principal secretary came under a cloud for alleged links with one of the main accused in the gold smuggling case.Updated: Aug 03, 2020, 20:13 IST
Opposition parties have stepped up pressure on Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to quit owning moral responsibility as details of the gold smuggling case began to emerge.
A day after Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan sat on a dharna in Delhi, opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala held a day-long fast in the state capital on Monday seeking Vijayan’s resignation.
“The CM’s office is under cloud after his secretary’s role came out in the smuggling case. Pinarayi Vijyan is Narendra Modi of Kerala and he never tolerates any healthy criticism.This is the first time a CM’s office is coming under such a charge,” said AICC general secretary Mukul Wasnik in a video conference as Chennithala began his fast.
The CM’s powerful secretary M Sivasankar, a senior IAS officer, was suspended after his alleged links with one of the accused Swapna Suresh surfaced. The case hit the headlines on July 5 after 30 kg of gold that came in an air consignment for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate in Thiruvananthapuram was seized from the airport.
Swapna Suresh and another accused Sandip Nair were about to get a plum contract to furnish the upcoming consular office UAE in Hyderabad, said a senior official familiar with the ongoing multi-agency probe.
An agreement was clinched with a furniture firm in Malappuram for a multi-crore rupee deal which also had a provision forpayment of commission. A week after Swapna’s arrest in Bengaluru on July 11,furniture mart owner T M Anwar was also arrested in connection with the smuggling case.
“We have information that she acted as a brokerin many deals and accepted hefty commissions. She used her proximity with the powerful to strike deals. Her prowess in many languages including Arabic,English and Hindi bowled over many,” said the senior official.
Meanwhile State Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel, whose phone number figured prominently in Suresh’s call list,reiterated that he interacted with her only for distributing Ramadan kits and copies of the Quran donated by the UAE.
The BJP had expressed serious doubtsover consignments that came from the UAE and later transferred to Malappuram ina government vehicle. The Minister of State for External Affairs has said he violated protocol by accepting donations from another country without informing the Centre.
“Some people are threatening me with terms like treason and protocol violation. The NIA is probing the case, let it investigate this also. I am least bothered about these wild allegations,” said Jaleel. But BJP state president K Surendran said there was no need to send holy books from the UAE as they were readily available in Kerala also. He alleged that 28 such packets were taken to the minister’s constituency in a government vehicle.