Kerala gold smuggling: Oppositions steps up pressure seeking CM’s scalp
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began a one-day fast on Saturday and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) has also announced a series of protests from Wednesday (August 5).Updated: Aug 01, 2020 17:40 IST
The opposition is mounting pressure on the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, the only Left Front dispensation in the country, over the gold smuggling case and asking the CM to quit taking moral responsibility for the scam that is being probed by the National Investigative Agency (NIA).
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began a one-day fast on Saturday and the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) has also announced a series of protests from Wednesday (August 5).
“What is the Kerala model? Is it a model to support smugglers and anti-national forces? The CM’s right-hand man (principal secretary M Sivasankar) has gone and another minister is under scrutiny now. It’s time for CM Vijayan to go,” said BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav while inaugurating the fast of the lone party lawmaker, O Rajagopal, at the state party office in Thiruvananthapuram through a video link amid the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan will be observing a day’s fast at his official residence in New Delhi on Sunday.
“The CM is planning to get his way by sacrificing some officials. Everything happened under his nose. Some reports even suggest the proceeds of smuggling were used to fund anti-national activities. He has to own up moral responsibility and resign,” said Muraleedharan.
“During one of the recent protests (anti-Citizenship [Amendment] Act, 2019) against the Union government, the CM had sat on a dharna blocking the road in Thiruvananthapuram,” said Muraleedharan, who belongs to Kerala.
Muraleedharan and CM Vijayan have locked horns several times over the evacuation of stranded Keralites from West Asian countries during the lockdown restrictions, which were imposed since end-March to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The gold smuggling case surfaced on July 5 when PS Sarith, a former employee of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, was arrested. He was arrested, when he had come to receive a consignment that had arrived from Dubai in the name of a consulate official.
Later, 30 kilograms (kg) of gold was retrieved from the consignment and the case was handed over to the NIA.
On June 10, Swapna Suresh, a senior information technology (I-T) consultant and her friend Sandip Nair, were arrested from their hideout in Bengaluru and the CM’s powerful principal secretary Sivasankar, a senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, was suspended over his alleged liaison with Suresh.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M), which is a key constituent of the LDF government, has slammed the Congress and the BJP for joining hands to topple a democratically-elected dispensation.
“The CM had recommended a central agency (NIA) probe soon after the case surfaced. Let them go to the NIA and submit all proofs, if they have. We are not worried about the ongoing investigation,” said party state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and added that the CM could not be browbeaten by this kind of political stunts.
Though the government had welcomed the probe and disowned the powerful principal secretary Sivasankar, many in the CPI (M) fear that the probe will be used as a ruse to embarrass the state government.
BJP national president JP Nadda had fired a salvo at the LDF government recently saying “gold is yellow everywhere, but it is red in Kerala”.